Lao Gan Ma

Lao Gan Ma (Chinese: 老干妈; also called Laoganma) or Old Godmother is a brand of chili sauces made in China.[1][2] The product is sold in China and over 30 other countries.[2] Lao Gan Ma is credited with popularizing Chinese chili oil and chili crisp condiments in the western world, and have inspired many Chinese-American chili-based condiments and sauces.[3][4]

Lao Gan Ma
Alternative namesLAOGANMA
TypeChili sauce
Place of originGuizhou, China
Created byTao Huabi
Main ingredientsChili peppers
Lao Gan Ma
Simplified Chinese老干妈
Traditional Chinese老乾媽
Literal meaningold godmother
Lao Gan Ma brand flavored tofu chili sauce


Tao Huabi is said to have invented the sauce in 1984[5] and in 1989, she set up a noodle restaurant in Guiyang, Guizhou; when she noticed the popularity of her hot sauces, she converted the restaurant into a specialty shop to sell her sauces, particularly chili oil sauce. In 1994, she borrowed two houses of the CPC Yunguan Village Committee in the Nanming District and employed 40 people to work in her new sauce factory.[2]

Difficulties with counterfeiters

Despite the brand's success upon launch, it struggled with counterfeits with similar packaging in China. They proliferated due the Chinese government turning down Lao Gan Ma's application to trademark the product.[2] After the trademark request was denied, over counterfeit Lao Gan Ma came to prominence.[6] Tao countered these competitors by utilizing a branch of third-party private enterprises to target them.[2][6] In 2001, the high court Beijing ruled that other similar products could not use the "Lao Gan Ma" name nor imitate its packaging; Tao received 400,000 RMB in compensation.[7] The trademark application was later approved in 2003 after a lengthy lawsuit against a counterfeiter based in Hunan.[2]

Tao Huabi is the owner of the company, and her son Li Guishan became the first president of the company.[2] Women of China magazine reported in January 2011 that the company's assets were 1.3 billion RMB ($190 million USD) and that the company had 2,000 employees at that time.[6] The sauce is produced commercially by Laoganma Special Flavour Foodstuffs Company,[8] which was established in 1997.[2] By 2022, the condiment became more common in locations outside of China.[9]

Recipe dispute

After 2016, Lao Gan Ma's sales in China declined for two years in a row. According to reports, Lao Gan Ma's annual income reached 4.549 billion RMB in 2016, 4.447 billion RMB in 2017, and 4.389 billion RMB in 2018.[10] It was speculated that this was due to a change in the recipe in 2011, where after the company was taken over by Tao's son, the pepper variety was changed from Guizhou Chili to Henan Chili.

The Chili of Guizhou are large in size, full in body, and contain more water, making it more suitable for making hot sauce, lending the sauce an aroma other than the spicy flavor. According to some, Lao Gan Ma lost its unique flavor after this change.[11] In 2019, Tao Huabi became the manager of the company again, and Lao Gan Ma switched back to Guizhou chili.[10]


Lao Gan Ma being spooned out of a jar

A variety of flavors are produced such as Spicy Chili Crisp, Chili Oil with Black Bean, Fried Chili in Oil, Hot Chile Sauce, and Spicy Bean Paste, among others.[12] The Lao Gan Ma products are based on traditional chili sauces found in Guizhou cuisine.


The town of Changmingzhen, Guiding County, Qiannan Buyei and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, has a Lao Gan Ma factory that opened during the COVID-19 pandemic in China.[13]

See also


  1. Spice cream: Try a Lao Gan Ma chili sauce sundae|Society|News| Archived 2014-08-09 at the Wayback Machine
  2. The illiterate woman behind the Laoganma chili sauce excelene salsaempire|Economy|People| Archived 2014-08-09 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Park, James (2021-03-03). "The Ultimate Guide to Chile Crisps". Eater. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
  4. "The Chinese chilli oil that's hot stuff in the West". South China Morning Post. 2021-02-04. Retrieved 2021-05-03.
  5. "LAOGANMA USA - Official Site | Laoganma Chili Sauce". LGM USA, INC. Retrieved 2022-11-03.
  6. "Chili Sauce Empress". Women of China. January 13, 2011. Archived from the original on 9 August 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  7. Koetse, Manya. "The Legendary Lao Gan Ma: How Chili Sauce Billionaire Tao Huabi Became a 'Chinese Dream' Role Model". Retrieved 2022-12-04.
  8. Guizhou's Laoganma achieves revenue of 510 million yuan
  9. Sullivan, Helen (2022-11-05). "'China's hottest woman': the driving force behind crunchy chilli sensation Lao Gan Ma". The Guardian. Retrieved 2022-11-21.
  10. Li, Zhenxing (2020-01-22). "Tao Huabi returned to Lao Gan Ma to stop falling". China Daily.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. Wang.XY (2020-04-02). "Why is Lao Gan Ma no longer *hot* in China?". Panda!Yoo. Retrieved 2020-07-23.
  12. "Products". Lao Gan Ma. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  13. "Blue-Collar Boom: How China Bounced Back From the Virus". The New York Times. 2021-01-15. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
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