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Campbell’s bought Rao’s, and fans fear the beloved sauce is going to change

“I’ve seen the speculation that we’re going to change the recipe—even some of my friends texted me,” Campbell's CEO Mark Clouse wrote on LinkedIn.
Jars of Rao's sauces are displayed along a grocery store's shelves.
U.S. packaged food maker Campbell’s has announced that it will be buying Rao's owner Sovos Brands.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Campbell’s is on the defensive, insisting to pasta fans they won’t be changing the recipe of a beloved jarred pasta sauce.

On Aug. 7, news dropped that Campbell Soup Company was set to acquire Sovos Brands, the company that makes Rao’s Homemade pasta sauces, for approximately $2.7 billion. The line is beloved by American pasta lovers and also critically acclaimed, scoring top marks by in both the marinara and Alfredo categories.

“Today marks a momentous occasion for Sovos Brands as we announce our plans to join the Campbell’s family,” said Todd Lachman, Sovos Brands, Inc.’s founder, president and chief executive officer in a news release. “I’m confident in Campbell’s ability to continue bringing our products to more households and further building on our track record of growth and success for years to come.”

Although Lachman’s outlook reads dynamically positive, news of the acquisition by the public was, in a word, worried. Almost immediately, people on social media shared their trepidation about their favorite pasta sauce changing ownership (even though it was acquired by the very company who is selling it now back in 2017).

“There goes the quality from Rao’s,” tweeted one person in response to the news.

“Please don’t destroy Rao’s pasta sauces 🙏🏼,” tweeted another, pleading with Campbell’s.

“That means they’re gonna start adding sugar to it. This is why we can’t eat nice things,” wrote someone else, this time on Reddit, to which another replied, “Sugar is too expensive, so they’ll probably add high fructose corn syrup instead.”

“Campbells bought Raos and if they change the recipe I’m going to ugly cry,” tweeted another. “Time to stock up.”

Reaction reached such a fever pitch that Campbell’s has been on somewhat of a press tour to ensure people it wouldn’t dream of tweaking the tomatoey gold that comes in a Rao’s jar.

“We’re not touching that sauce!!” Campbell’s emphatically responded to one customer on Instagram.

Campbell’s CEO Mark Clouse appeared on Yahoo! Finance to speak about the company’s new suite of sauces, promising the same.

When reached for comment, a Campbell’s spokesperson directed to a post Clouse penned on LinkedIn about the marinara melee on Aug. 14, outlining plans for the sauce and delivering a promise to customers.

“Wow, what a week!” Clouse wrote on LinkedIn.

“Prior to our acquisition of Sovos Brands, the final step of due diligence was a visit to Italy to see how Rao’s sauce is made. It’s part art, part science, and pure magic!” he wrote, adding plaudits to Rao’s “quality,” “ingredients” and the “artisans who guard the recipe.”

The CEO then turns his attention to the elefante nella stanza (that’s “elephant in the room” in Italian).

“I’ve seen the speculation that we’re going to change the recipe—even some of my friends texted me,” Clouse wrote. “I’ll tell you what I told them: There’s no way we’re changing the sauce!”

Clouse concludes his post by saying the soup company plans on bringing Rao’s sauce to more folks under its stewardship. “Viva Rao’s recipe!” he wrote.

Campbell’s owns several other saucy brands such as Prego, Pace, Spaghetti-Os, as well as many others that litter the aisles of your local supermarket. One more recent acquisition, in 2018, was Snyder’s-Lance, the maker of Cape Cod Chips, Late July Organic and Snyder’s Pretzels, all which retain high ratings on online retailers like Amazon and Target.

Even with these assurances, one Reddit comment sums up the internet’s skepitcal attitude toward the acquisition:

“Someone take a picture of the nutrition label now and we’ll compare it in let’s say a year or two from now.”