Ragu Believes Everyone Can ‘Cook Like a Mother’

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The jarred pasta sauce category has exploded in recent years. New players, with premium names, have entered the market, making heritage claims that may ring a bit untrue. 

The jarred pasta sauce category has exploded in recent years. New players, with premium names, have entered the market, making heritage claims that may ring a bit untrue. 

Ragu, a brand that has been around for 80 years, wants consumers to remember that it has been part of Americans’ meal traditions for years with a major brand relaunch that includes new package designs and a humorous marketing campaign. 

“[The prepared] sauce market that has shifted over the past few years. Premium, higher-priced sauces have ‘elevated’ the category, everyday brands have focused on quality credentials that have made consumers demand more from the taste of a pasta sauce, and several brands with much less tenure in the category have tried to establish credibility via heritage,” Megan Frank, senior vice president of marketing, at Ragu parent Mizkan America, Inc. “We want to share our quality, taste and heritage stories in a way that makes people remember why we’ve been a beloved part of mealtime for generations.”

The brand’s new marketing campaign carries the theme, “Cook like a Mother,” and takes its inspiration from one of the brand’s founders, Assunta Cantisano. Cantisano, like many Italian matriarchs, viewed food as more than fuel, it is a culture, an identity and a love language, Frank said. 

“That observation gave us the ability to elevate Ragu’s place at the dinner table,” Frank said. “Ragu was actually started by an Italian Mom, [which led to our strategy of] inspiring anyone and anyone to setp up to the stove with confidence.”

The new campaign, from Digitas Chicago, features two 15-second commercials showing two different family meal scenarios. In the first, a bridge-playing grandmother wants to hurry the game along so she can make it to dinner at her granddaughter’s house. The second spot depicts firefighters awaiting a dinner prepared by a colleague. 

In creating the new campaign (which replaces the previous effort, “Simmered in Tradition”), the company set up a few guardrails to define the work. Among them:

  • Family is what you make it, opening up the possibility of showing the many different familial connections people may make. 
  • Celebrate the cook, making sure the cook was seen in a heroic light by taking the time to get it all done, despite increasingly busy schedules. 
  • Showcasing possibilities beyond pasta, to show how the sauce can be used to create meals that truly bring families together. 
  • Traditional sauce doesn’t mean traditional advertising, to stay away from falling back on traditional “family” and “food” imagery. 

“As we enter the holiday season, cooking at home will be a huge part of consumer’s lives over the next few months and the ‘Cook Like a Mother, campaign launch is the perfect time for everybody, regardless of gender or culinary skillset, to get in the kitchen,” Frank said. 

Meanwhile, the brand has redesigned its packaging, highlighting its distinctive yellow jar cap, carrying the color and style across the brand’s entire range of jars and jugs. The redesign also highlights the yellow in new labels that will make it easier to identify the entire range of products on crowded store shelves, Frank said. 

“We hope that this packaging redesign will make sauce shopping easier, as consumers can more easily spot the Ragu jars because of the new and bright yellow lids and labels,” Frank said. “The new package design will make it easier for consumers to spot our sauce more quickly and save them time in the grocery store.” 

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