Rao’s Bets Home Cooks Will Go High End with $130 Balsamic Drizzle
(Bloomberg) -- Just when you thought the sauce shelf couldn’t get more crowded.
On Monday, Aug. 2, Rao’s Homemade announced a new addition to its line of ubiquitous sauces: a white truffle marinara.
The product, which adds truffle shavings to a tweaked version of its signature tomato sauce, is a featured part of the brand’s new Limited Edition Reserve line.
The sauce is notable for more than the sprinkling of pricey funghi. The jars will be scarce: In contrast to the Rao’s Homemade marinaras and arrabbiatas on prominent display in markets across the country, the company will produce fewer than 2,500 jars of the truffled sauce—at least for now—and will make them available only on its website.
The new sauce strikes a balance of bright tomato flavor with the earthy, funky bite of truffles. You won’t see the truffles, but you can taste them and there’s no noxious truffle oil flavor. (The ingredient list includes ‘white truffle natural flavor’ as well as white truffles.)
The move might be a way to distinguish Rao’s in an increasingly crowded sea of sauces. In March, the power dining spot Carbone introduced its own line of marinara, under the Major Food Group label. It installed Eric Skae, the former chief executive officer of Rao’s Specialty Food Group, as chief executive officer. In contrast to the $9, 24-oz. Carbone marina, Rao’s white truffle will go for $16 in a smaller 19 oz. jar.
Rao’s Homemade truffled pasta sauce has been in the works for more than two years, according to Risa Cretella, executive vice president and group manager of Sovos Brands Inc. “We wanted to create an ultra-premium sauce, and we have seen consumer demand for truffles continue to rise,” she said via email.
The new line also includes a jar of marinated sun-dried tomatoes, as well as a container of black olives, both for $9. A few of the new products have more striking price tags, including the Ligurian olive oil, at $45 for 25 oz., a six-year balsamic condiment for $38, and most notably a 30-year aged balsamic condiment that costs $130 for a 3.38 oz. bottle. “We wanted to make our offering limited in nature to focus on quality and curation,” said Cretella. “Rolling out on a smaller scale was the right strategic approach to test and learn.”
Sovos did not disclose its research and development expense for the new products. Although the Rao’s Homemade food line operates separately from the storied Harlem dining spot in New York, the restaurant’s owner, Frank Pellegrino Jr., collaborated on the line of products.
Sales of Rao’s Homemade sauces were buoyed by the pandemic. They increased 40.4% in the 52 weeks ending July 11, according to the data analytics company IRI. In the past quarter, half-year, and year, the 24 oz. marinara sauce from Rao’s Homemade’s has been the top-selling item in the pasta sauce category.
In 2017, Rao’s Specialty Food Group was sold to Sovos. Retails sales for the company, which also owns Noosa yogurt, were reported at $800 million in 2020.
Cretella says there are no immediate plans to expand on the limited quantity of the truffled pasta sauce that’s being released: “Right now, our focus is on making this launch a huge success, and we are always open to revisiting successful limited-edition launches.”
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