If you feel like you’re seeing Sriracha wherever you look, you’re not wrong ― the spicy sauce has made its way into everything from chips to lip balm, all because its creator never trademarked the name.
Apparently it wasn’t an oversight ― according to GrubStreet’s history of Sriracha in the video above, David Tran, a refugee from Vietnam, created and sold the sauce out of buckets in 1980 throughout the streets of LA’s Chinatown.
Once successful, Tran rebranded his sauce to name it after a Vietnamese coastal town called Si Racha, where a spicy sauce is made as tradition. It’s thinner, sweeter and not quite as hot as Chan’s American version.
Tran hasn’t spent any money on advertising and told the LA Times that he considers it free advertisement when competitors such as Heinz and Frito Lay make their own versions of the flavor.
“Everyone wants to jump in now,” Tran said. “We have lawyers come and say, ‘I can represent you and sue,’ and I say, ‘No. Let them do it.’”
Nobody really knows how much profit Tran is losing by not trademarking the name, considering the sales of his sauces grew from $60 million to $80 million from 2013 to 2015.
It just means that you can make your own Sriracha ― a hot sauce made with vinegar, chilis, garlic and sugar ― and legally sell it as Sriracha.