Pick up the Pace

I miss old fashioned commercials that had catchy jingles or memorable taglines. Take Pace Thick and Chunky Salsa ads, for example.

Their TV spots typically featured cattle-driving cowboys who invariably ran out of salsa. Some cowpoke would bring out a brand of inferior salsa. The other cowboys would say that they only ate Pace Thick and Chunky Salsa, made with real chunks of tomatoes, onions and peppers in San Antonio “by folks who know what salsa should taste like.”

When the scapegoat would then indicate his salsa was made in New York City, the rest of the posse would incredulously repeat, “NEW YORK CITY?!” and the poor sap would shirk away sheepishly.

Those ads immediately came to mind when I heard about the recent lawsuit against Texas Pete hot sauce.

Philip White, a California resident, purchased a bottle of Texas Pete from his local Ralph’s grocery store in September of 2021. He was soon dismayed to learn, however, that the spicy condiment was actually made in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. WINSTON-SALEM?!

White then sued T.W. Garner Food Co., the manufacturer of Texas Pete, in Los Angeles federal court for false advertising. He claims he would never have bought the Louisiana-style hot sauce, nor would he have paid as much for- it, if he knew it wasn’t made in Texas.

According to the complaint, T.W. Garner knowingly “capitalized on consumers’ desire to partake in the culture and authentic cuisine of one of the most prideful states in America.” It goes on to say that the company “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.”

White alleges 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. The lawsuit reads, “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.”

T.W. Garner is open about where its hot sauce is made. The company’s website indicates that its founder, Sam Garner, chose ‘Texas Pete’ because of the state’s “reputation for spicy cuisine” and as an homage 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. A label on the back of the bottle indicates it is manufactured in North Carolina.

White argues that a consumer wouldn’t likely notice the label, which uses “distinctly Texan” imagery, such as the “famed white ‘lone’ star from the Texan flag together with a ‘lassoing’ cowboy.” The suit asserts, “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.”

White is asking the court to force T.W. Garner Food Co. to pay for damages and change its name and branding.

I just hope that White doesn’t realize that Ram Dakota trucks are actually made in Michigan.

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Reg P. Wydeven

Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney at McCarty Law LLP
Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps from a young age, Reg’s practice primarily consists of advising individuals on estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. As Reg represents clients in matters like guardianship proceedings and long-term care admissions, he feels grateful to be able to offer families thorough legal help in their time of need.

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