Posted May 25, 2023
University System of Maryland Momentum Fund Invests in SIMPLi, Supporting Rapid Growth
SIMPLi is a leading provider of Regenerative Organic Certified® foods.
BALTIMORE, May 25, 2023- SIMPLi Group, Inc. ("SIMPLi"), a Baltimore-based, mission-driven regenerative organic food company, announced today that it closed a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) funding round to support its rapid growth and national expansion to leading retailers and restaurant groups. The University System of Maryland (USM) Momentum Fund (Momentum Fund) participated in the financing and follow-up funding from the Abell Foundation.
“We’re excited to build on our early success and expand our operations with this new round of investor capital,” said Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder Sarela Herrada. “We’re thankful to have the Momentum Fund, the Abell Foundation, and our other investors join us on the journey and look forward to building our business right here in Baltimore.”
As demand for organic food surges internationally, the emerging Regenerative Organic Certified® foods category has rapidly taken center stage in retail and food service. Concerns about climate change, unfair and exploitative treatment of international farming communities, and fragmented and untraceable supply chains are encouraging food companies to adapt their practices. In the last three years, major global brands, including Walmart, Unilever, and PepsiCo, have announced significant expansions of regenerative agriculture programs with a focus on traceable supply chains and sustainability.
“We’re thrilled to support the SIMPLi team as they scale their business to become national leaders in the regenerative organic food category,” said Mike Ravenscroft, Managing Director of the Momentum Fund. “This investment will help the team respond to increasing demand from both retail and food service, allowing them to scale up with key hires.”
"Since the Abell Foundation’s initial investment in 2021, we have been impressed by SIMPLIs’ ability to grow revenues, expand product offerings, serve national customers, and create new, high-quality jobs in Baltimore,” said Eileen O’Rourke, Abell’s Director of Impact Investing. “We support SIMPLi’s core value of delivering high-quality products to customers while enriching local economies throughout their supply chain.”
“We founded SIMPLi with a simple mission: to create a food company dedicated to sustainable sourcing for a better world,” said Chief Financial Officer and Co-founder Matthew Cohen. “We firmly believe that Regenerative Organic Certified® foods have the potential to create true impact for farming communities, consumers, and the environment. We look forward to the next phase of the business as we grow to meet international customer demand.”
Herrada is no stranger to high-growth food companies. As one of the first ten employees and Director of Food and Beverage at CAVA, Herrada was instrumental in building and scaling the company’s award-winning brand to over 80 fast-casual restaurants and CPG products in Whole Foods Markets nationwide. She and her co-founder Matthew Cohen, a Salisbury University Perdue School graduate who spent a decade in financial services, recognized the emerging opportunity in regenerative organic agriculture and launched SIMPLi as a mission-driven food company seeking to bring Regenerative Organic Certified® products to global consumers.
Yet shortly after the company was founded in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic precipitated a lengthy disruption to global supply chains. As the company navigated this unprecedented event, the war in Ukraine compounded supply chain disruptions and threatened the safety of SIMPLi’s local farming community partners.
“Over the last three years, we witnessed challenges to the global food system unlike any we’ve seen in recent history,” said Herrada. “Ultimately, the resilience of our farming communities and the strength of our integrated supply chains enabled our farmers and our company to prevail and eventually thrive throughout this challenging period.”
In April, SIMPLi announced a nationwide rollout with Whole Foods Market and is set to announce several additional significant partnerships across retail and food service in the coming months. SIMPLi was recently featured on CNN’s Global Connections series, and the company has received numerous accolades and awards from across the industry. Last year, Herrada joined the board of the Regenerative Organic Alliance and has quickly become a leader in the regenerative organic food movement.
“Sarela and Matt introduced us to SIMPLi at Salisbury University’s Perdue School of Business Fall 2020 Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery Program,” said Bill Burke, Executive Director of Economic Development and Director of the Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery at Salisbury University. “SIMPLi received funding from the Shore Hatchery and mentorship from Doug Wilson, a Shore Hatchery Board Member. Matt is a 2012 Salisbury University Graduate from the Perdue School of Business in Finance.”
A woman-owned and minority-owned company, SIMPLi's mission is to simplify and transform a flawed food system into one that is equitable and regenerative – good for the planet, people, and producers. The company, co-founded in 2020 by native-Peruvian Sarela Herrada and her husband, Matt Cohen, stands out for its commitment to plastic-free packaging for its beans, grains, legumes, superfoods, oils, and spices as an alternative environmentally friendly option compared to a largely plastic-filled industry standard. In an effort to commercialize sustainable and regenerative organic farming, SIMPLi works with native farming communities around the globe to transition their land to Regenerative Organic Certified®, a method of farming that restores and regenerates the planet rather than depletes it (and also has strict criteria for worker and animal welfare). SIMPLi is a leading Regenerative Organic Certified® ingredients company with Organic and Regenerative Organic certified products offered through its food service and retail channels and a strong pipeline of transitional farms on the way to certification, made possible through SIMPLi's infrastructure and global distribution footprint.
About the University System of Maryland Momentum Fund
The Maryland Momentum Fund is an initiative of the University System of Maryland (USM) to provide late seed investment funding for promising technology ventures that come out of any of the 12 constituent USM institutions, its research parks, and its students, faculty, or graduates. With a $16M commitment from the USM, the Fund co-invests alongside venture capitalists, foundations, and angel investors.
The Maryland Momentum Fund was established by the USM Board of Regents to support promising commercial opportunities arising from advances in research and intellectual property at USM campuses. The Fund is designed to create returns and support USM’s most innovative ideas as they enter the marketplace. Learn more about the Fund and view the portfolio companies at https://momentum.usmd.edu/
Maryland Momentum Fund