Campbell Soup announced last week they would be acquiring Sovos Brands, the owner of Rao’s products, for about $2.7 billion by December.
Rao’s is a beloved sauce brand known for its all natural ingredients as well as their Sensitive Marinara sauce made without onions or garlic. These omissions make the sauce easier for those with food sensitivities to digest.
Mick Beekhuizen, Campbell Soup executive vice president and president of the meals and beverages division — as well as a Rao’s customer — told Boston.com the decision to purchase Sovos Brands was driven by a love for Rao’s products.
“We truly bought it for what makes all the consumers, including myself, so enthusiastic about the product as it is,” he said.
Boston.com readers were also concerned about the sauce changing ownership. Of the 583 readers who responded to our poll, about 89% said they were worried the taste of Rao’s sauce might change. Additionally, about 91% said they’d try to find an alternative sauce if it changes.
Are you worried the taste of Rao’s sauces will change?
Will you try to find an alternative sauce to Rao’s if the recipe changes?
Some specific concerns that readers had about the Sovos Brands sale regarded Rao’s Sensitive Marinara sauce. For some readers with stomach problems, they said it’s one of the only sauces they’ve been able to handle, partly due to the absence of onion and garlic.
“I have IBS and can’t have garlic or onion and always have a few of their Sensitive Marinara on hand. It’s great for many people with stomach issues,” said reader John from Massachusetts.
Other readers said they or their household members have food allergies, and they appreciate Rao’s transparency with ingredients and the manufacturing process. For these readers, if the recipe were to change, they or their household members could no longer eat it.
“Rao’s was good for food allergies,” said reader Bob F. from Stoneham. “If Campbell’s changes factories it could affect the allergens present.”
Additionally, many readers responded with stories of other companies merging with smaller ones, and then changing their products later on.
“It’s happened too often that a corporation buys out a hugely popular smaller brand and gradually changes it into a more profitable version of inferior quality,” said reader Grace A. from Arlington.
“I’ve seen the speculation that we’re going to change the recipe—even some of my friends texted me,” Clouse said on LinkedIn. “I’ll tell you what I told them: There’s no way we’re changing the sauce!”
Beekhuizen confirmed with Boston.com that Campbell’s has “no plans to discontinue any varieties” of Rao’s sauces.
Additionally, Beekhuizen said he was able to visit the Rao’s manufacturer in southern Italy and saw how the sauces were made. This experience made him appreciate Rao’s process even more and cement that the recipe would stay the same.
“It’s truly made in a kind of artisan way,” he said.
Read below to see what Boston.com readers had to say about Campbell’s acquiring Sovos Brands and Rao’s sauces.
Some responses have been edited for length and clarity.
It’s one of the best jarred sauces
“Rao’s is hands down the best sauce I have found. No added sugars is very important. The ingredients and recipe must remain consistent post-acquisition, or Campbell’s just wasted their capital. They will not have the sales or loyal customers.” — Kimberly H., Hingham
“Rao’s sauces are amazing, and their jarred soup is even better. Best chicken noodle soup you can buy at a grocery store. I hope Campbell’s doesn’t screw it up.” — Beth B., North Andover
“Rao’s is the best, most flavorful and none of the added crap. I don’t care that it doesn’t last as long in the fridge. I’d rather the flavor and ingredients than a lower cost with all the bad stuff.” — Kim, Middleboro
“If I have no time to make my own, Rao’s will do. It’s delicious, I have served it and guests think it’s homemade. Use the best ingredients. No chemicals. Great taste.” — Ken, Lexington
“I’m so upset about this. As a busy working mom of three kids, this is my go to sauce when I’m in a pinch. No fake ingredients and low in sugar. Ugh! I’ve tried alternatives and nothing tastes like Rao’s!” — Anonymous, Sharon
I have food allergies and/or restrictions
“We love this sauce but the main reason we eat it is due to food allergies. We have multiple food allergies in our family and Rao’s has always been quite transparent with ingredients and processes. […] Please do not change the recipe or the manufacturing process.” — CD, Littleton
“We need the sensitive variety that does not contain garlic. This is the reason we pay the premium price for Rao’s. We will have to change to another brand if the recipe is changed.” — Heather, Woburn
“For anyone eating/living a low-FODMAP diet, the Sensitive Marinara is the only way they can safely enjoy store bought pasta sauce. Would be a shame to lose that. It’s a pantry staple for us.” — RT, Boston
“Rao’s was good for food allergies. If Campbell’s changes factories it could affect the allergens present.” — Bob F., Stoneham
“I have IBS and can’t have garlic or onion and always have a few of their Sensitive Marinara on hand. It’s great for many people with stomach issues.” — John, Massachusetts
“Their Sensitive Marinara is the only sauce my stomach can handle. I was so happy to find this product and I’m not sure an alternative exists.” — Anonymous, Boxborough
I’ll try to find a replacement or make my own
“Not considering my homemade tomato sauce, Rao’s sauce is number one on my list. No other commercial tomato sauce is comparable. If the sauce recipe changes — and I have tasted enough different brands of tomato sauce to know right away — I will go back to making my own homemade sauce again. Time-consuming, but worth it.” — J.M., Reading
“If I’m unable to make my own, Rao’s Arrabbiata sauce is my go-to. If it changes, I’ll be looking for something else or making and freezing more of my own.” — Maryann, Melrose
“I use Rao’s exclusively. Costco just came out with their own brand though. It is very close to Rao’s. If Rao’s changes the sauce, I will switch to Costco marinara sauce.” — Ginny D., Salem, NH
Campbell’s wouldn’t buy Rao’s to change it
“Why would Campbell’s elect to buy a sauce that is renowned for its taste and ingredients, then change the recipe? Using a sports analogy, why would you trade for Tom Brady and then start him at tight end? Makes no sense.” — Pat, Franklin
“They already own a mass market brand, Prego, so they don’t need to try to move Rao’s into that niche. At the Rao’s price point they’re already making plenty of money: dumbing down the sauce to try to further improve margins would be self-defeating. But if they do change it, I’m out.” — Shirley D., Dorchester Center
“With the larger distribution and manufacturing capacity of Campbell’s, hopefully the cost will come down, but the product itself will likely go unchanged.” — Kevin C., Braintree
“I like to think that Campbell’s is a smart marketer. If not, they will pay the price of lost sales.” — Pete, Skillman, NJ
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.
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