There have been cookbooks dedicated to the condiment, iPhone covers inspired by it, and t-shirts for those looking to flaunt their love. A full-length documentary has been made about Sriracha; Trader Joes makes its own version; and Taco Bell serves an entire menu of Mexican-ish dishes dotted with a Sriracha cream sauce.
With all that exposure, Sriracha is teetering on the precipice of being too popular to be cool.
And now comes Heinz Ketchup. The condiment king is confident enough in the hot sauce's popularity to have a go at incorporating it into its brand. The company announced a new addition to its lineup of condiments: Sriracha Ketchup. The tomato-based sauce, which was officially released this week, comes infused with "spicy chili peppers and a hint of garlic," according to Heinz's website,
Several media outlets, including Vox, have cited Heinz's new offering as evidence of the beginning of the end of Sriracha. Vox's headline is fairly straightforward in that regard: "Sriracha ketchup is a clear sign that we've hit peak sriracha." The thinking is that if Sriracha is a fad, that fad could run it's course much in the same way that, say, cupcakes seem to be.
But that line of thinking seems a bit off—or least a little imprecise. If anything, Heinz's new Sriracha doesn't mean we have reached peak Sriracha; it means we have reached peak Sriracha coolness, which is different.
Huy Fong Foods, after all, would be a lot bigger if it could manage to harvest enough chilies to meet demand, which has far outpaced supply ever since the company started making the chili sauce in the 1970s. The reason the company doesn't advertise is because advertising would only widen that gap further, David Tran, Huy Fong's owner and founder, said in 2013. Huy Fong has boosted production since then, but it could still be selling a ton more. The ceiling for Sriracha sales, in other words, is much higher than many people might think.
The launch of Heinz's new ketchup will only push that ceiling higher. In some ways, it can be seen as a form of free advertising: Many people who might not have heard of the hot sauce will soon wonder what Sriracha is, Google the name, and find out. Some people who try the ketchup first might prefer it, many might not.
All of which is only going to diminish Sriracha's coolness, but maybe not its selling power. The future of Sriracha's street cred then, envisioned in this way, might unfold something like this: