A man has filed a class action lawsuit against Texas Pete hot sauce after he learned the product isn’t actually made in Texas.
Instead, the product is made in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which the lawsuit claims is false advertising.
When California resident Philip White purchased a bottle of Texas Pete at a Ralph’s supermarket in September 2021, he believed it was made in Texas, according to the complaint, filed by The Clarkson Law Firm on behalf of White on Sept. 12. in Los Angeles federal court.
The lawsuit said White wouldn’t have bought the Louisiana-style hot sauce, or would not have paid as much for it, if he knew its origin.
The complaint alleges the makers knowingly “capitalized on consumers’ desire to partake in the culture and authentic cuisine of one of the most prideful states in America.”
The hot sauce brand did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
On Texas Pete’s website, parent company T.W. Garner Food Co. explains where and why the hot sauce is made in North Carolina. After consulting a marketing adviser, the company’s founder, Sam Garner, landed on Texas Pete because of the state’s “reputation for spicy cuisine” and as a nod to his son’s nickname.
“The current factory, built in 1942 and added onto too many times to count, sits on the original Garner family home site in northwest Winston-Salem. And the legendary Texas Pete, proud of his cowboy heritage but also a proud North Carolinian, continues to thrive,” the website says.
An image of the product’s back label states it is manufactured in North Carolina. But the lawsuit claims that a consumer would likely not notice. The product’s label uses “distinctly Texan” imagery, including the “famed white ‘lone’ star from the Texan flag together with a ‘lassoing’ cowboy,” the complaint says.
But despite that, “there is surprisingly nothing Texas about them,” it says.
“If a consumer conducted an extremely close review of the Products’ back labels, nothing would overcome the reasonable impression given by the front label that the Products are indeed made in Texas,” the complaint argues.
Plaintiffs are asking the court to force T.W. Garner Food Co. to pay for damages and change its name and branding.
T.W. Garner Food Co. “has cheated its way to a market-leading position in the $3 billion hot-sauce industry at the expense of law-abiding competitors and consumers nationwide who desire authentic Texas hot sauce and reasonably, but incorrectly, believe that is what they are getting when they purchase Texas Pete,” the complaint says.
The complaint argues that the Texas branding ultimately hurts smaller companies in Texas and “lawful competitors” that are trying to capitalize on the authenticity of their Texas hot sauce.
“After crafting a flavor profile that is uniquely Texas over several hundred years, it is no surprise that Texas takes great pride in its hot sauce,” the complaint says.
Camille Fine is a trending visual producer on USA TODAY’s NOW team.