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Team to see how sauce is made

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

Trio of officials to promote Denton to Sriracha manufacturer

Denton officials will be visiting the California factory that makes the popular Sriracha chili sauce in hopes of convincing the company to relocate to Denton.

Aimee Bissett, the city’s economic development director, is making plans for District 1 City Council member Kevin Roden and Adam Gawarecki, vice president for economic development at the Denton Chamber of Commerce, and herself to travel to Irwindale, Calif., the home of Huy Fong Foods, which makes the Asian-inspired hot sauce.

The trip will be independent of the delegation of Texas officials who are also making a pitch to bring the company to the Lone Star State. Denton received its own invitation late Wednesday to visit the factory.

Bissett said Denton sees the company’s invitation primarily as an opportunity to promote the city and its emerging urban garden movement.

“It’s mostly a promotional effort so they can see what Denton has to offer,” Bissett said.

Roden started a small campaign on Twitter in October and in an open letter on his blog to bring Sriracha to Denton soon after the manufacturer began having legal troubles in California. Residents near Huy Fong’s new factory in the San Gabriel Valley city had begun filing complaints about strong odors coming from the plant.

Before the holidays, Roden had sent a formal letter to the company touting Denton and what it has to offer. Roden’s efforts became a regional curiosity, which triggered interest from national media and, eventually, state officials.

Roden did not return a call for comment Thursday, but he posted several comments through Twitter encouraging suggestions for pitching Denton to Huy Fong Foods.

After a recent vote by the Irwindale City Council declaring the plant a public nuisance, Texas officials made their move. A delegation that includes state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and an aide for Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, will visit with Huy Fong on May 12. According to news outlets in Austin, Houston and San Antonio, state officials see San Antonio as a possible Texas location should the maker of the popular hot sauce decide to relocate or expand.

Bissett said she did a little research late last year and learned that the company needs thousands of tons of chili peppers from its suppliers in order to brew and bottle its popular condiment. She says the local climate is suitable to growing chili peppers.

Brandon Boughen, agricultural agent with Texas AgriLife Extension in Denton, said that most of the nation’s produce is grown in temperate climates, particularly the valleys in California. Similarly, in Texas, most produce is grown in the more temperate Rio Grande Valley.

If it gets too hot during the day, or doesn’t cool off enough at night, pepper plants can drop their blooms or yield smaller fruits, according to researchers at Texas A&M University.

An acre of pepper plants, with about 30,000 plants for optimum production, can yield 8 tons to 10 tons of peppers.

Chili pepper plants do best in sandy loam, but Denton County soils are primarily blackland clay, Boughen said. Peppers also need the equivalent of 25 to 30 inches of water during the growing season, which means a Texas grower would need reliable irrigation.

And, the peppers need to be picked by hand. Boughen said he was doubtful that pickers would come this far north in Texas to work.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.