Who would have ever thought that something called the “garbage bowl” would become a household name? And it’s not solely because the person who created it, Rachael Ray, possesses a household name herself. The garbage bowl, that sturdy dish sitting in the middle of the counter where the onion peels and sausage wrappers get dumped, saves the busy home cook precious time by cutting out the unnecessary trips back and forth to the garbage can or a big clean up afterward. The efficiency of the garbage bowl makes it a useful or even essential kitchen item for many home chefs.

The garbage bowl is a kitchen mainstay for the same reason EVOO – the acronym for extra virgin olive oil – ended up in the Oxford Dictionary in 2006. According to Oxford American Dictionaries Editor Erin McKean, who credits Ray with coining the word, “in order for a word to go in the dictionary, it has to be useful to people. It’s not just enough to be a fabulous celebrity to get your word in the dictionary; you have to make a word that people like to use.”

If there were a single term to describe the garbage bowl, EVOO or the Moppine – the dishtowel with insulated pockets that doubles as a potholder – or any other product under the Rachael Ray brand, “useful” would make a strong run in the race. Whether learning under her mother in restaurants, or on her former Food Network show “30 Minute Meals” or on the “Rachael Ray” show, these are all things that Ray actually uses, and things that she knew could help others in the kitchen. Popular retailers also see value in the brand, such as Kohls, Costco and Target.

“The brand has built in a good way, slowly over the years,” says John Cusimano, Ray’s husband and business partner. “There are other brands where a celebrity personality or brand ambassador just says, ‘Put what you think should be out there and I’ll stand behind it.’ But Rachael’s not like that. Every product has to be something that she would use anyway. So developing our products might take a little longer, but that’s what makes the brand authentic. There is no product that goes out that she hasn’t conceived of herself or been instrumental in developing and has already tested and approved.”

The Rachael Ray Way

The Rachael Ray brand – which has grown to include the award-winning daytime talk show, cook books, the Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine, pantry items, pet food, food carrying accessories and, of course, a host of cookware and kitchen tools – is an extension of Ray herself. She has moved several techniques from her kitchen into the viewer’s kitchen largely at the request of audience members, who write to ask where they can find these items.

But her ideas for making fast and healthy homemade food didn’t stop with those signature items. For instance, her oval pasta pots, which conveniently fit on the stove side-by-side and allow the pasta to slip in and out easily, began as a design on a napkin. The brand has formed key partnerships to turn her drawings into actual products.

“We look for people who are the best in their category and have the ability to work with us very closely on every product from development to marketing and distribution,” explains John Hall, president and COO of the Rachael Ray brand. “They must have the ability to execute while making sure that Rachael’s brand essence is reflected in those products.”

Meyer Corp., a leading international cookware manufacturer and Ray’s first licensing partner, started out eight years ago with Ray on quintessential products such as the oval pasta pot and garbage bowl, as well as a number of traditional cookware and utensils. Just as her show and magazine have entered new categories, the relationship with Meyer has expanded, as well. The Bubble and Brown collection, a stoneware for baked food items such as lasagna that can go straight from the oven to the table, has been around for a couple of years. This fall, Meyer and Rachael Ray will launch a new porcelain casual dinnerware collection.

“We’ve got a lot of different lines of product with Meyer,” Cusimano explains. “We have cookware, bakeware, tools, gadgets and tabletop. Today, we are in the planning stages of kitchen textiles, such as table cloths and napkins. We will focus on the kitchen textile first and move into other rooms in the house.”

The partnership with Meyer is typical of many of the partnerships the Rachael Ray brand maintains. Colavita produces the brand’s EVOO, vinegars and cooking stocks. and is working with Rachael Ray to develop a line of spices and spice grinders.

Ainsworth, partners of Rachael Ray’s Nutrish, began with dog food in 2008 and will follow with a cat food line next year. Ray and Cusimano have a passion for pets, and 100 percent of Ray’s proceeds from the sale of all Nutrish foods go to pet rescue groups – to date more than $3 million in donations.

As Rachael Ray nurtures merchandising partnerships, the company has taken ownership in other lines, as well. Three years ago, Rachael Ray launched Rachael Ray Accessories, a spinoff in partnership with a friend and entrepreneur, Judy Zander, who has a background in handbags.

“We wanted to keep it related to food and to the kitchen,” Cusimano says. “Judy found a company in Toronto that manufactures very high-quality food storage and transport bags. They have a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are large with wheels, some are small that you carry and have a technology that is resistant to heat and cold. If you put hot or cold food in, it will stay hot or cold for hours.”

Spreading the Word

Since her TV debut, Ray has been able to spread the word about her “can-do” products through a number of forums. The television show, magazine and website provide a direct link between Ray and her audience. However, Hall explains that social media has a growing relevance to the brand, as well.

“Through the website and other social media assets, we are able to create much more awareness and engagement,” Hall says. “As an example, with the launch into Target, we were able to leverage social media to support the launch of our brand there through our website and with the Rachael Ray Facebook and Twitter account  to reach Rachael’s audience and fans and make them aware of what’s happening in her world.”

Ray’s accessibility is a major draw for other companies. That quality shined through even in her earliest days on “30 Minute Meals,” where she created her lasting niche of providing practical yet delicious solutions for the average home cook. When Rachael Ray began its relationship with Meyer, there was no award-winning show, just Ray, Cusimano and a few homemade press kits of an oval pasta pot.

“It’s really about the size and strength of the brand,” Hall says. “She has a very large audience and because of the way that the business has been built, she can reach her audience through daytime television, cable television, through her magazine, through books and through her website. She’s been able to leverage that for the benefit of the business and business partners, particularly on the merchandising side. And because of the way each line of business relates to one another, the entire brand is stronger than any one business would be on its own.”