IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Texas Pete hot sauce is being sued because it’s actually made in North Carolina

The lawsuit claims Texas Pete "has cheated its way to a market-leading position in the $3 billion-dollar hot-sauce industry."
Grovetown, Ga USA - 02 15 22: Retail store shelf Texas Pete hot sauce side view
Texas Pete hot sauce displayed on a grocery store shelf.Billy Blume / Alamy Stock Photo

Though so many of us call this great swath of land called the United States home, citizens in all 50 states lay their own unique claim to the distinctness of the areas in which they live. This is why when someone says “the best pizza” and follows it with a city that isn’t New York or Chicago, it’s considered fighting words. In the case of one new lawsuit, this exact philosophy has been taken to its legal extreme.

On Sept. 12, a man filed a lawsuit with the makers of Texas Pete hot sauce, alleging it misrepresents itself as a product from Texas because the company who makes the condiment, Garner Foods, is based in North Carolina.

The plaintiff, a Los Angeles resident named Phillip White, has brought the class action suit claiming he was bamboozled into thinking the sauce he was purchasing was from the Lone Star State itself.

The suit said that the incident happened around September 2021 when White purchased a bottle of Texas Pete Original Hot Sauce in Los Angeles, California at a Ralphs store for about $3. In making his purchase decision, the suit said White “relied” on the words and images on the label of the bottle and “understood” the product to be of Texas.

The plaintiff stated in the filing that the look of the hot sauce “adorns the packaging and labeling with distinctly Texan imagery: the famed white ‘lone’ star from the Texan flag together with a ‘lassoing’ cowboy” to create a distinctly Texan vibe. (To be fair, though, the North Carolina flag also has a single white star.)

It was only later that White discovered the sauce was actually from elsewhere in the country, according to the suit. He claimed that if he knew it wasn’t from Texas when he purchased the bottle, he “would not have purchased the Product, or would have paid significantly less for it,” key language included in class action suits over misleading packaging, much like in a recent suit against the makers of “Ritas” brand drinks, Anheuser-Busch.

“By representing that its Texas Pete brand hot sauce products (‘Products’) are Texas products, when they are not, Defendant has cheated its way to a market-leading position in the $3 billion-dollar hot-sauce industry at the expense of law-abiding competitors and consumers nationwide who desire authentic Texas hot sauce,” reads the suit.

“By way of its false marketing and labeling, Defendant knowingly and intentionally capitalizes on consumers’ desire to partake in the culture and authentic cuisine of one of the most prideful states in America,” the suit continues.

White and his lawyers also included other people across the internet who were shocked to find out that Texas Pete is actually from the East Coast, including an article about the subject and a TikTok from @ncmuseumhistory, an account dedicated to North Carolinian lore.

The suit also alleges that Texas Pete “concocted this false marketing and labeling scheme specifically because it knows the state of Texas enjoys a certain mysticism and appeal in the consumer marketplace and is known for its quality cuisine, spicy food, and hot sauce in particular.”

When reached for comment by TODAY Food, a Garner Foods spokesperson said, "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."

Where does the name 'Texas Pete' come from?

“So why is a hot sauce made in North Carolina named Texas Pete,” you ask? Well, in 1929, a North Carolinian named Sam Garner and his three sons, Thad, Ralph and Harold, were trying to come up with a brand name for a new sauce they created, according to Texas Pete’s own website (which is also included in the suit, by the way).

A “marketing advisor” suggested the name “Mexican Joe” to “connote the piquant flavor reminiscent of the favorite foods of our neighbors to the south,” which is something that Garner vetoed, which is probably for the best, if we’re being honest.

Since cowboy movies and imagery were popular at the time and Texas also shared much of the flavor profile they were trying to inspire, they went with a cowboy for their mascot-of-sorts.

Garner’s son Harold, whose nickname was “Pete” — don’t ask me, I don’t know why either — became the other half of the hot sauce name, and with that, “Texas Pete” was born.