Sriracha : “Ông trùm tương ớt” gốc Việt nức tiếng đất Mỹ

David Trần năm nay 65 tuổi, là một doanh nhân gốc Việt sinh sống tại Mỹ. Ông đã sáng chế tương ớt từ hai bàn tay trắng, và đến nay, hầu hết mọi người dân Mỹ đều biết đến tương ớt của ông Trần qua công ty mang tên Huy Fong Foods.

 1426238940-fgdkkinh_doanh_tuong_ot_iueeÔng David Trần, ông chủ gốc Việt nổi tiếng về tương ớt

Nói về cơ duyên đến với nghề, David Trần cho biết, ông sản xuất tương ớt từ năm 1975 sau khi quay trở lại quê hương Việt Nam. Ông lấy ớt được trồng trên trang trại của anh trai ông tại một thị trấn phía bắc Sài Gòn.

Sau đó ông đã di cư sang Mỹ và bán một loại tương ớt cho căn cứ quân sự Mỹ và từ đó, những lọ tương ớt của ông đã trở thành loại gia vị nổi tiếng và lý tưởng trên cường quốc này.

Vào tháng 2.1980, David Trần quyết định mở một cơ sở kinh doanh tương ớt với quy mô nhỏ ở Los Angeles Chinatown. “Tôi nhớ, tôi đã nhìn thấy nước sốt cà chua Heinz 57 và tôi bắt đầu suy nghĩ. Thế vận hội 1984 đang đến gần, làm sao tôi có thể cho ra một loại nước sốt Tran 84 và có thể bán cho tất cả mọi người?”, ông Trần nhớ lại.

Sau đó, David Trần không nghĩ rằng ông sẽ cho ra mắt một loại tương ớt mang tên Sriracha, bởi lúc đó nhà hàng Thái Lan mang tên Sriracha cũng đang rất nổi tiếng.

Trên thực tế, ông Trần đã biến tên goi của một loại nước chấm ở Thái Lan – Sriracha (tên này được được đặt theo một thị trấn bên bãi biển- Si Racha ở trung tâm Thái Lan) thành tên loại tương ớt của mình.

Tuy nhiên, cái tên Sriracha lại thuộc sở hữu từ một công ty của Thái Lan- Sriracha Panich, công ty này được mua lại bởi Thai Theparos Food và kinh doanh dưới thương hiệu của Golden Mountain. Nếu công ty này chuyển đến Mỹ với tên gọi “Sriracha” thì một cuộc tranh chấp thương hiệu sẽ xảy ra.

Thêm vào đó, không chỉ David Trần lấy tên gọi Sriracha mà nhiều cơ sở sản xuất tương ớt cũng ăn theo loại tương ớt của ông Trần. Kết quả là nhiều thị trường ở châu Á cũng sử dụng thương hiệu của tương ớt Sriracha và mang logo những động vật khác nhau, từ một con phượng hoàng Việt, một con cá mập Trung Quốc, một con ngỗng bay Thái Lan và thậm chí là một “gà” của Thái Lan.

Vì vậy, người tiêu dùng thường nhầm lẫn các sản phẩm này với sản phẩm của Huy Fong. Song, tương ớt Sriracha thật có vị cay cay, ngọt ngọt lấy cảm hứng từ các hương vị khắp vùng Đông Nam Á, thường được dùng trong các nhà hàng hải sản địa phương.

Để phân biệt với các thương hiệu khác trên thị trường, ông Trần đã đăng ký nhận diện thương hiệu của mình với logo con gà trống và dáng vẻ chai tương khác biệt của Sriracha.

Một điều đáng tiếc là David Trần, người sáng lập tương ớt Sriracha lại chưa bao giờ đăng ký nhãn hiệu bản quyền cho sản phẩm của mình, bởi vậy những thương hiệu khác có thể tự do gọi sản phẩm của họ là “Sriracha”. Ngay cả hãng nước sốt Tabasco, nổi tiếng khắp thế giới, cũng bắt tay phát hành bản sao của Sriracha.

Ông Trần cũng nhận ra rằng việc ông không đăng ký bản quyền là một sai lầm, ông đã bỏ lỡ một cơ hội “vàng” và ông cảm thấy tiếc nuối. Ông nói: “Mọi người đều muốn nhảy vào bảo vệ tôi. Nhiều vị luật sư đến và nói sẽ đại diện cho tôi để kiện các công ty khác và tôi nói “Không, hãy để họ làm điều đó”.

Dù bây giờ ông Trần có cố gắng thế nào đi nữa thì ông vẫn không thể đăng ký bản quyền thương hiệu mang tên này. Khái niệm về thương hiệu đã trở nên quá phổ biến với việc sử dụng như một danh từ không thích hợp.

Công ty của ông Trần hiện đã bị mất quyền bảo hộ nhãn hiệu pháp lý. ‘Escalator’, ‘hoover’, ‘aspirin’ và ‘jacuzzi’ đều là những ví dụ điển hình về điều này.

Tuy nhiên trở ngại này cũng không làm cho doanh thu của Huy Fong sụt giảm. Công ty của ông Trần tăng doanh thu hàng năm khoảng 35 triệu USD với khoảng 20 triệu chai tương ớt. Tuy nhiên, khoảng 80% doanh thu của Huy Fong là từ các đại lý người Mỹ gốc Á.

Công ty Huy Fong hiện do tất cả các thành viên trong gia đình ông tập trung phát triển và có tổng cộng 70 công nhân sản xuất theo mùa. Con trai 33 tuổi của ông Trần, William giữ vị trí Chủ tịch công ty.

Năm 2009, đã có một tạp chí có uy tín về thực phẩm gọi tương ớt Sriracha là “hương vị của năm”

Tương ớt Sriracha của Huy Fong cũng được dùng với bánh mì kẹp thịt và sushi. Trong hai năm qua, từ các đầu bếp tại các nhà hàng ở Appleby đến hộp đêm Manhattan đã rỉ tai nhau sử dụng tương ớt Sriracha để chế biến những món ăn chính trong nhà hàng.

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