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Carbone takes aim at Rao’s with new supermarket sauce lineup

Watch out, Rao’s. There’s a new fancy pasta sauce headed for grocery shelves.

The high-end New York-based Italian restaurant Carbone is for the first time selling its pasta sauces online and in some supermarkets, as part of a broader push into consumer packaged foods.

Carbone’s parent company Major Food Groups announced Monday the launch of Carbone Fine Foods, a line designed for “consumers to now experience the Michelin-starred Italian restaurant in their homes.”

Its three pasta sauces — marinara, arrabbiata and tomato basil — cost $8.99 for a 24-ounce jar. The company said the sauces are made in small batches, just like at its restaurants.

That price point puts Carbone the premium category, which has been dominated by Rao’s, another New York-based Italian restaurant that has expanded in the grocery space recently with new frozen items and sauces. Rao’s currently sells the same sauce flavors for a similar price of Carbone’s options.

Carbone’s arrival comes as more people are cooking at home and shifting their cupboard preferences toward more expensive brands. In the pasta sauce category, sales of Rao’s and other premium sauces grew about 5% over the past year as people elevate their at-home dining experience, according to research firm IRI.

Sales of budget brands like Prego that retail for about $2 a jar fell about the same amount, the firm’s data shows.

Carbone Fine Foods hired Rao’s former CEO, Eric Skae, to lead its new packaged food group. Rao’s parent company Sovos Brands is reportedly exploring an initial public offering as demand for higher-end groceries has surged during the pandemic.

Carbone’s sauces will first be sold in Stop & Shop locations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut with plans to expand in the coming months. The restaurant has three locations in the United States: New York, Las Vegas and its newest outpost in Miami.

Article Topic Follows: Money

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