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The Margin: Texas Pete maker sued for crafting its hot sauce in — gasp — North Carolina


Some Texas Pete customers are hot under the collar about where this sauce is actually cooked up. 

A California man has filed a class action suit against the hot sauce maker, claiming it “capitalizes on consumers’ desire to partake in the culture and authentic cuisine of one of the most prideful states in America” with a name and label that plays up Texas — yet, the product is actually whipped up in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Hey, at least it wasn’t made in New York City!

The complaint filed by the Clarkson Law Firm on behalf of customer Philip White says that the dissatisfied customer bought a bottle of Texas Pete for about $3 at a Ralph’s Supermarket in September 2021, because he believed it was made in Texas. The suit claims that White would have passed over the bottle of Texas Pete if he knew it really came from North Carolina.

But with a name like Texas Pete, as well as a label featuring “distinct Texan imagery” like the “lone star” from the Texas flag and a cowboy, the suit says that consumers like White looking for an authentic Texas hot sauce are being misled. 

“Because there is nothing ’Texas’ about Texas Pete, [the company’s] deceptive marketing and labeling scheme violates well-established federal and state consumer protection laws aimed at preventing this exact type of fraudulent scheme,” the suit states. 

Garner Foods told MarketWatch in a statement over email that, “We are aware of the current lawsuit that has been filed against our company regarding the Texas Pete brand name.  We are currently investigating these assertions with our legal counsel to find the clearest and most effective way to respond.”

It should be noted that both the Texas Pete and T.W. Garner Food Co. websites point out that the hot sauce is made in North Carolina. What’s more, the back label on the hot sauce bottle also reveals that it is made in the Tar Heel State. 

But the suit argues that “consumers do not view the back label of the products when purchasing everyday food items such as hot sauce.” The plaintiffs are asking for unspecified damages, as well as for Texas Pete to change its label and advertising practices. 

This brings to mind an Illinois woman’s $5 million suit against Kellogg last year, claiming the company is misleading consumers by selling “Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts” that barely contain any strawberries. 

Or when Starbucks faced backlash several years ago as more consumers started realizing their beloved pumpkin spice lattes didn’t actually contain any pumpkin. The coffee chain has since tweaked the recipe to squeeze in autumn’s signature gourd.

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