Rachael Ray Was Told Pet Food Line Nutrish Was a Bad Idea – But Made a Huge Success of It

It’s taken for granted these days that Rachael Ray’s Nutrish pet food line is part of the domestic pet food landscape. It wasn’t always the case.

Rachael Ray and her dog, Isaboo
Rachael Ray and her dog, Isaboo | Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for NYCWFF

After her whirlwind success as a celebrity cook, Ray decided to dip her toe into the pet food waters, against the advice of many.

The Rachael Ray 50 author went with her instincts, and doesn’t regret it one bit.

Rachael Ray has no formal culinary training but still made it big

The 51-year-old got her big break from Oprah Winfrey, who as Ray in 2019 told Howard Stern, invited the 30 Minute Meals star on her talk show in 2005, where Winfrey proclaimed Ray a superstar, as she “leaned in and told me, ‘You’ve got it.’ ”

Ray told Stern, “[Oprah] is delightful and has changed the course of my life and my family’s life.”

From the start, Ray has been grabbing the attention of those around her. A go-getter in every sense of the word, she was noticed by a local New York station while she was demonstrating how to cook in an upscale food store in upstate New York. The station created a cooking segment for her and even helped her publish her first cookbook.

She began appearing on NBC’s Today show with occasional visits in 2001. After that, Food Network brought her on board first with one program, and then built up to four: 30-Minute Meals$40 a DayTasty Travels, and Inside Dish.

And then Oprah Winfrey took note of the dynamic and petite cook, entrusted her with her own daytime talk show in 2006, and the rest is history.

Rachael Ray has a soft spot for animals

Ray loves her animals, and in fact, all animals. She has become a spokesperson for the welfare of animals and during the recent pandemic donated $2 million to benefit animal shelters that may be losing donations during this crisis.

Ray also created Rachael’s Rescue organization, which her website notes “was created for all of the forgotten pets—the ones who might not have someone who loves them as much as they deserve. A portion of proceeds from each sale of Nutrish is donated to The Rachael Ray Foundation, which helps animals in need through Rachael’s Rescue.”

How Nutrish was born

Nutrish hit major supermarkets in 2008. The natural pet food contains no artificial preservatives, flavors, or poultry by-product meal, with formulas influenced by Ray’s own recipes from her kitchen containing fresh ingredients such as slow-roasted chicken, carrots, field peas, potatoes and apples.

She told The New York Times in 2018 that she had no regrets about going forward with her pet food idea, despite what many were telling her was a very bad idea.

“People were like, ‘you can’t put your head on dog food. That’s insane,’ ” she said. “I was like, ‘Who cares? It’s not like I have a stellar reputation as one of the world’s great chefs.’ . . . My gut is what got us here. I am not going to change what I do or make my decisions any differently.”

Nutrish’s sales exceeded $200 million in annual sales in 2016, and two years later, Smucker bought the pet food line for nearly $2 billion.

Smucker said at the time of their purchase, “Rachael Ray Nutrish brand adds another high-growth, on-trend brand to our pet food portfolio. Their team has done a tremendous job growing this business, building Nutrish into one of the most recognizable premium pet food brands in the United States.”

Read more: How Did Rachael Ray Meet Her Husband, John Cusimano?