Things are about to get saucier at Campbell’s.
The soup maker—whose red and white can inspired Andy Warhol’s iconic painting—announced on Monday that it had purchased Sovos Brands, the company that produces Rao’s Homemade.
Fans of Rao’s might be fearing the worst of this corporate acquisition. If you too were ready to run out to your local supermarket and stock up on a few jars “just in case,” trust us, you’re not alone. One fan tweeted, “Buying all the raos before it’s ruined.”
So what does Campbell’s acquisition of Rao’s mean for those of us who always have a jar on hand for quick and easy pastas, Sunday lasagnas, and weeknight dinner emergencies?
Why Campbell’s Bought Rao’s
Purchasing Sovos Brand is a move that pushes Campbell’s, which makes pantry staples from Spaghetti O’s and Swanson broth to Goldfish crackers and Cape Cod potato chips, into the premium food category.
“This acquisition fits perfectly with and accelerates our strategy of focusing on one geography, two divisions, and select key categories that we know well,” said Campbell’s President and CEO Mark Clouse. “The Sovos Brands portfolio strengthens and diversifies our Meals & Beverages division and paired with our faster growing and differentiated Snacks division, makes Campbell one of the most dependable, growth-oriented names in food.”
It’ll also help Campbell’s make more money. Sovos owns Michael Angelo’s, maker of Italian frozen meals, and Noosa Yoghurt, but Rao’s is undoubtedly its flagship brand, making up a whopping 69 percent of its sales in 2022.
How Rao’s Became a Household Favorite
Rao’s jarred sauces launched in 1992, but its story goes way back. Before it became a household staple, the sauce was only available at its namesake New York City restaurant, which Italian immigrant Charles Rao opened on the corner of 114th Street and Pleasant Avenue in 1896.
The legendary red-sauce establishment became notoriously difficult to snag a table at and then-owner Frank Pellegrino Sr. grew tired of saying no to reservations. So he decided to bottle the sauce, and he stood firm on how it was made: no sugar, tomato paste, starches, fillers, or color—just as it was made at the flagship restaurant.
According to an interview with Forbes, the Rao’s product line, which grew to include a variety of sauces and soups, was acquired by Sovos in 2017 and the company continued to produce the beloved red sauce as is—slow-simmered in open kettles with high-quality ingredients like whole peeled Italian tomatoes, basil, and olive oil.
Do I Need to Stock up on Rao’s Now?
Rao’s has become a go-to sauce brand for many, including the editors at Simply Recipes, who say its flavor is unmatched. General Manager Emma shares, “If I was having a dinner party and wanted to impress my friends but didn’t have time for a homemade sauce, Rao’s is the one.”
If you exclusively use Rao’s and are panicking at the thought of Campbell’s modifying the recipe, fear not—there’s no need to sweep current jars off supermarket shelves.
I asked a company rep if there would be any changes to the sauce. Their reply: “We wouldn’t dream of it.”