This cult-favorite pasta sauce is being acquired by Campbell's — and its fans are heartbroken

Will the sauce still be simple, delicious and effortlessly tasty? Only time will tell

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published August 12, 2023 4:00PM (EDT)

Jars of Rao's sauces are displayed along a grocery store's shelves on August 07, 2023 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Jars of Rao's sauces are displayed along a grocery store's shelves on August 07, 2023 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A sizable subset of spaghetti fans congregated online last week week to mourn the potential demise of Rao's Homemade — the famed jarred pasta sauce brand that was acquired by food giant Campbell Soup Company on Monday. Well, to be specific, Rao's still exists as a brand. But Sovos Brands, the maker of Rao's pasta sauces, was purchased by Campbell's as part of a mass takeover that also includes Michael Angelo's Frozen Foods and Noosa Yogurt.

The deal is set in stone at this point, considering that both companies entered an agreement for Campbell's to acquire Sovos for $23 per share in cash — which amounts to a total value of about $2.7 billion. It's a major win for Campbell's, who makes Prego sauce and Goldfish crackers alongside its namesake soups. And it's a major win for Sovos Brands, who will reap the benefits of Campbell's established supply chain and will see increased distribution of their products.

However, a number of Rao's fans fear their favorite jarred sauce will experience a forthcoming downgrade, worrying that as production goes up the quality will go down. Rao's has been touted as the best pasta sauce to exist on this planet. Seriously, no other jarred pasta sauce can compare. Barilla Marinara? Classico Marinara with Plum Tomatoes? Bertolli Traditional Marinara? Nah, they're not even on the same level. So it makes sense why so many ardent lovers of the brand are wary of what's to come.

You could say Rao's fandom is quite cult-like. Of course, it's not literally a cult. But those who stand by the brand truly stand by it. So much so that they're unwilling to accept that there's anything better than Rao's on the market. Take it from Bon Appétit's Alex Delany, who explained that the reason why Rao's reigns supreme is because of its short yet simple ingredients list.

"Rao's uses high quality tomatoes and olive oil, without any added preservatives or coloring. The rest of the ingredients won't surprise you: salt, pepper, onions, garlic, basil, and oregano. You know, the stuff you'd expect to be in tasty marinara," Delany wrote. "And the biggest omission from that list is added sugar. Which already tells you something about how it tastes."

Delany added that the sauce is "very well-balanced" on the sweet front and, overall, tastes very homemade. And out of all its listed ingredients, Rao's uses a generous amount of olive oil: "You can see it sitting right on top of the sauce, before you even crack open the jar. We love that commitment to the fatty, olive oil-y side of the sauce. That fat is the key to a fantastic, well-rounded marinara."

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It's no wonder why Rao's is Ina Garten's go-to jarred sauce. "Of course it's always good to make it yourself, but I find Rao's is fantastic, so store-bought's good, too," Garten said in a 2019 interview with TODAY. Rao's is also a must-have amongst Costco shoppers. And, it was ranked number one on TODAY's list of best jarred pasta sauces. Simply put, Rao's is the "boss of the sauce."

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Following Rao's acquisition, fans took to the Costco subreddit to voice their disappointment. Many Redditors expressed an urgency to stock up on jars of the sauce as soon as possible. "I bought some a few weeks ago when it was on sale, I usually have 3-4 jars in case cause I just LOVE the stuff. I'll have to check expiry dates on them but I'll need to grab some more," wrote one user.

Another wrote, "Rao's has been my go to sauce when I didn't feel like making one myself." And one heartbroken user simply said, "That sucks. All we have used in [the] past 15-20 years."

It's still too early to say what's in store for Rao's future; neither Rao's nor Campbell's has indicated any plans for a formula change. But hopefully, fans of the sauce can continue enjoying it to its fullest.

By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon. She writes about food news and trends and their intersection with culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


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Campbell Soup Company Explainer Pasta Sauce Rao's Sovos Brands