No Trademark, No Problem for Sriracha Founder

Photo: Photo Composite: © SHUTTERSTOCK / ROGUE ALES; © Sriracha2Go; © Heinz®

Sriracha beer, Sriracha ketchup, Sriracha chips, even Sriracha keychains. One would think Sriracha must have a marketing genius at its helm. Surprisingly, Sriracha spends next to nothing on marketing—and even more shockingly, Sriracha isn’t trademarked. The now ubiquitous Asian chile sauce has been around for decades, with David Tran’s Huy Fong Foods introducing its flagship product back in 1980. At the time, Tran had no idea just how much Sriracha would take off and never felt the need to trademark his brand.

Now, with dozens of new competitors and food vendors marketing Sriracha-flavored products left and right, Tran has to be kicking himself for missing out on tens of millions in licensing revenue, right? Not quite. Tran claims that the unrestricted use of the term Sriracha has amounted to free advertising to his brand, which doesn’t even have a marketing budget. And while its name can be co-opted by competitors, its distinct rooster logo and green cap make it the iconic brand of Sriracha.

Whatever Tran is doing, it seems to be working. Last year, Huy Fong Foods brought in more than $80 million in sales. No wonder Tran has no regrets.

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