For Mika Manninen and Helena Lumme, moving to the U.S. from their native Finland was a dietary culture shock. The couple longed for a number of all-natural, non-GMO foods and beverages that were only available in Europe, and, in particular, a drink made with oats. However, the Finnish ex-pats – both veterans of the consumer goods world – also sensed opportunity. While U.S. consumers were gradually shifting toward healthier lifestyles, oat-based products were missing from equation. In 2008, the couple founded Simpli, a company that manufactures and imports a range of oat shakes and oatmeal products.
After three years in development, Simpli splashed onto the market with a well-received debut at Natural Products Expo West 2011. The company’s oat shakes were touted – and applauded – for their on-trend, healthy qualities; the drinks are low-calorie, high in fiber, dairy-free, and contain no added sugar.
Only two weeks after launching at Expo West, Simpli signed a national distribution deal with natural foods powerhouse Kehe, and United Natural Foods (UNFI) picked up the brand a short time later. The brand’s shakes have since gained a significant amount of traction within the natural foods channel with Simpi positioning the drinks within the rapidly growing dairy alternative category, and focusing on a core message of health and wellness. Simpli Oat Shakes are now distributed in over 500 stores including Whole Foods locations in the retailer’s Northern California and Rocky Mountain regions.
Simpli’s first-to-market oat drink and rapid ascent within the natural foods channel, particularly as a dairy alternative product, has not gone unnoticed. The oat shakes sparked a growing number of number of new entries onto the market including Sneaky Pete’s Oatstanding beverages, Oatworks, and Naked’s Fruit Juice & Oat Smoothies – all part of a rising tide of investment and innovation into the nascent oat category.
In this video, BevNET Editor-in-Chief Jeff Klineman speaks with Manninen and Lumme about the Simpli brand, and how oat-based drinks have become a legitimate category for companies to invest in. Lumme also discusses how Simpli plans to increase education about the benefits of oat drinks as a way to develop a more consistent consumer of its products.