LOS ANGELES — Texas Pete hot sauce isn't made in Texas — and a California man is suing over it.
When Phillip White bought a $3 bottle of the famous sauce last year, he thought it was made in Texas, a complaint filed Sept. 12 in Los Angeles federal court says. Multiple outlets quoted the complaint and a copy was posted online by consumer nonprofit Truth in Advertising.
The class action lawsuit, filed on White's behalf by The Clarkson Law Firm, alleges that the makers of Texas Pete "knowingly and intentionally (capitalize) on consumers’ desire to partake in the culture and authentic cuisine of one of the most prideful states in America" through "false marketing and labeling."
It alleges White would not have bought the product, or at least paid as much, if he knew it wasn't made in Texas.
Why is Texas Pete hot sauce made in North Carolina?
Texas Pete has long been manufactured in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the company's website says.
The company that owns Texas Pete, T.W. Garner Food Co., says on the website that the Garner family chose the name back in 1929. A marketing advisor suggested "Mexican Joe," but founder Sam Garner wanted "an American name."
"Sam suggested they move across the border to Texas, which also had a reputation for spicy cuisine," the website reads. "Then he glanced at son Harold, whose nickname was “Pete” and the Texas Pete cowboy was born."
The lawsuit also points to the website, saying the company "readily admits having no connection to Texas, while it is decidedly not forthcoming about this on the Products or elsewhere at the point of purchase."
The hot sauce's back label states that it is made in North Carolina, but the lawsuit claims customers are unlikely to check — focusing instead on Texan imagery like the "lone star" above the brand name and the cowboy mascot. It also alleges that the company's branding hurts smaller competitors in Texas.
"We are aware of the current lawsuit that has been filed against our company regarding the Texas Pete® brand name," a spokesperson for the hot sauce makers said in response to a request for comment via email. "We are currently investigating these assertions with our legal counsel to find the clearest and most effective way to respond."