Logo for Simple Mills.

Simple Mills Partners with IRI Growth Consulting to Drive Profitable Innovation

CHICAGO – May 5, 2021 – IRI®, a fast-growing, global leader in innovative solutions and services for consumer, retail and media companies, and Simple Mills, a pioneer in the clean-food snacking space that ranks as the No. 1 baking mix, No. 1 cracker brand and No. 3 cookie brand in the natural category in over 25,000 stores nationwide, continue to expand their growth consulting partnership focused on expanding the Simple Mills portfolio and overall value proposition for retail partners and consumers. The partnership is part of IRI's efforts to guide clients of all sizes in making the most cost-effective investments in pricing, pack architecture, messaging/positioning, and product features and innovation that will strengthen their overall value proposition and profitability.

Robb Bennett, director of Insights and Analytics at Simple Mills, said, "Simple Mills partnered with IRI on a Price Pack Architecture project that drove highly actionable insights for both our current portfolio and new innovations. The IRI team mapped the current price and pack landscape, devised a custom approach to test consumer demand for new concepts across multiple retail channels, and advised on actions based on the learnings – all amid the market uncertainty of 2020. The results played a central role in developing new PPA concepts that will begin hitting the market later this year and enabled us to confidently move forward on new innovation. We greatly benefitted from the IRI team's strategic thinking, research experience and cross-category pricing expertise."

"Due to recent cost increases and shopper behavior shifts stemming from COVID-19, CPG manufacturers – especially premium players – need to strengthen their margins and justify their price positioning," said Ray Florio, executive vice president and partner of IRI Growth Consulting. "Furthermore, shoppers have become far more cynical about product claims and benefits, requiring brands to take a more sophisticated approach to communicate their true value and avoid commoditization. IRI is proud to partner with Simple Mills and other companies looking to navigate rapidly changing landscapes and make strategic growth decisions to drive sustained competitive advantage during these uncertain times."

IRI Growth Consulting is focused on supporting retail, CPG and health care companies of all sizes grow both top-line revenues and bottom-line profits simultaneously, with a focus on portfolio and brand strategy, pricing strategy, value proposition and innovation, and customer and product profitability. Among other benefits, the group can support clients by:

  • Developing strategies for expanding their portfolio to capitalize on additional use and shopping occasions.
  • Optimizing the link between product pricing, product development and marketing.
  • Determining the most efficient path forward through portfolio profitability.

If you're interested in learning more about IRI Growth Consulting, please contact Ray Florio at [email protected].


Founded in 2012, Simple Mills is a leading provider of better-for-you crackers, cookies, snack bars and baking mixes made with whole-food, nutrient-dense ingredients and nothing artificial, ever. In just eight years, the company has disrupted center-aisle grocery categories to become the #1 natural cracker and #1 natural baking brand with distribution in over 20,000 stores nationwide. Its mission is to advance the holistic health of the planet and its people by positively impacting the way food is made. For more information, visit www.simplemills.com.


The Mid-Market Growth Practice of IRI provides high-tech and high-touch support for small- to midsize manufacturers. Regardless of company size, IRI has a data solution that drives understanding and growth. Companies benefit from access to all the same tested and proven solutions offered to IRI global partners, enabling companies of all sizes to democratize data, streamline analytics and, ultimately, win in the marketplace. For more information on IRI's comprehensive portfolio of solutions specifically crafted for small- and midsized brands, please contact Robert Porod at [email protected].


IRI Contact:
Shelley Hughes
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +1 312-474-3675

Team member Winston Song, with a collaged artistic background.

Behind the Buyouts: Song Serves Up Vestar’s Better-For-You Menu

May 5, 2021/The Deal / -- Welcome to Behind the Buyouts, The Deal’s podcast where we sit down with venture capitalists, private equity pros and company executives to drill down into their capital raising transactions and acquisitions.

This episode features Winston Song, managing director and co-head of the consumer group at New York-based private equity firm Vestar Capital Partners Inc., who talks about his role in the better-for-you foods business.

When Vestar Capital completed its investment in Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods Inc. in January, the maker of vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, soy free, Kosher and non-GMO foods was relatively well-known on the East Coast and West Coast.

Song said he sees potential for a much wider presence for Dr. Praeger’s as the idea of more well-balanced diet grows more mainstream.

“It’s a great brand but relatively low awareness outside the coasts and outside the vegan community,” Song said. “We plan to invest in new products and marketing and bring more consumers. … They’ve got great instincts.”

Song met the management of Dr. Praeger’s at a trade show several years ago and developed a relationship. His interest was also stoked after sampling its products with his young kids.

The firm’s track record reviving Birds Eye Foods Inc. resonated with the company and helped Vestar Capital prevail in a competitive sales process for Dr. Praeger’s.

“Our bread and butter has always been to find these underinvested brands that we think have a lot of potential and have really good leaders that just need more resources,” Song said.

The firm’s experience with natural foods also helped. One early example is its 1989 investment in tea maker Celestial Seasonings Inc., which it sold to Hain Food Group for $390 million in stock in 2000.

Having an authentic product story also really matters to consumers.  In the case of Simple Mills Inc., a Vestar portfolio company since 2019, Simple Mills founder Katlin Smith launched the company after she decided to improve her diet by renting out a commercial kitchen and creating her own baked mixes.

Vestar Capital continues to work to identify sustainable food trends instead of short-lived food fads, with the firm looking at low-sugar foods as a common thread for consumers interested in cutting out carbohydrates and sugar.

Here’s the podcast: