Meet our leader who reimagined a better way to thicken food and beverages.
John Holahan, Inventor and Founder
Bachelor in Engineering, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, MN
Master of Business Administration, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
Holahan graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor in Engineering in 1992. After graduation he worked for Kelco - a thickener company owned by Merck and eventually sold to Monsanto - where he became an expert in several industrial thickeners. During his time at Kelco, a co-worker's mother was in hospice care and refused to drink anything made with a starch thickener. It was there that his coworker was introduced to powdered xanthan gum - a common additive used to thicken and stabilize foods. Shortly after, her mother began to drink again; ultimately she believed it gave her more time with her mother.
Soon after, John began the MBA program at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. During a class project, he remembered how xanthan powdered thickener helped his coworker's mother. However, he knew that powdered xanthan gum thickener was not the answer as it was much harder to dissolve than starch. Holahan explored making a liquid xanthan gum thickener that would make mixing less complicated. He developed a business plan, designed a prototype and sought input from various hospitals and longterm care facilities. His business plan was so well received by professionals in the industry that upon graduation in 2001, he founded SimplyThick, LLC.
Over the years, Holahan has presented to various long-term care trade organizations on the topics of International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI), dysphagia, thickeners, and rheology. He has trained over 2000 therapists and dietitians on IDDSI framework including methods in testing food at bedside for various IDDSI diet levels. Holahan continues to work as the President of SimplyThick and pursues his passion of improving the lives of those living with dysphagia.
In John's free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and family, fostering dogs (14 to be exact), and hosting exchange students. John is also an avid St. Louis Blues fan and loves to support his city by attending every game possible. He even attended every home and away game of the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals - 4 in Boston, 3 in St. Louis. (That is more games than Ryan O'Reilly's mother attended!)
"We always remember that our goal is to make lives better. We've never been satisfied with ourselves, and we know there has always been room for improvement. Over time, we have reduced preservatives, improved the taste profile, enhanced mixing ease, and re-invented our packaging to embrace IDDSI."
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