Among the many problems worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, hunger is one of the most devastating. According to the UN, Latin America was the region where the number of people experiencing hunger grew the most, jumping from 45.9 million to 59.7 million. In Brazil, according to the National Survey on Food Security, by Rede Penssan, 19 million people went hungry in 20. It was with an eye on this global problem that the startup Simple Nutri was born.
Founded in 2020 by Rafael Romano, the startup works in three areas: donation of meals, supply at cost price (more frequent in specific humanitarian causes), and the sale of full meals, which is where Simple Nutri’s remuneration comes from. The flagship of the portfolio is dehydrated foods through a natural process, without additives, which removes water from foods to preserve their characteristics.
As a result, the products do not have their cellular structure destroyed and keep their shape, color, smell and taste exactly the same after rehydration. This process allows the food startup to transport and store on average four times more food in the same space. The products also have a longer expiration range (one year) and can be presented at room temperature and be easily prepared. In 2022, the company has already supplied 70 tons of dehydrated food. By the end of the year, the forecast is to hit the 280-ton mark.
The company produces the meals in a factory in the Rio Grande do Sul state, Southern Brazil. When prepared for sale or donation, the food is already dehydrated as a complete meal. The catalog consists mainly of soups and risottos, prepared with various natural ingredients with high nutritional levels, such as meat, chicken, lentils, vegetables, rice, and pasta.
In addition to the core business, the startup has a strong social approach and, although the company has plans to launch an arm dedicated to the retail segment in the future, the current focus is on social demand. Today, Simple Nutri supports itself through the sale of food to organizations such as the United Nations, CARE, União BR, the Brazilian Cooperation Agency, Red Cross, among others. In addition, the startup is also a major supplier of food for global social projects, through partnerships with companies and organizations that approach Simple Nutri and are oriented by the marketing team to the causes that have most in common with their business. In this case, in addition to being a supplier, Simple Nutri acts as a mediator to bring companies closer to the regions in need.
With this idea, Simple Nutri already works on social projects in different parts of the world, in North America, Europe, and Africa. “Today, Simple Nutri is headquartered in Brazil with a branch in the United States, but our operations run worldwide. We set up our project at the beginning of the pandemic, in the face of growing world hunger. Our proposal is to be much more than a food supplier. We always seek to understand people’s needs, keeping in mind that it is a multidisciplinary topic”, said Romano in an interview with LABS.
Each project and each country brings particular challenges. “Each region has a different barrier. In the United States, there is a cultural issue of valuing domestic producers. So, to break this barrier of rejecting products from Brazil, we need a very well-thought-out strategy. We do this with social cashback: despite buying products from another country, Americans invest in education and entrepreneurship projects within their own country. So we always try to look more broadly to create an initial bond and find that gateway.”
“We have a list of projects that we support around the world. We arrived at a multinational company and showed this catalog. The executive chooses a project and comes to meet with us, and we work with our marketing so that they find a way to participate in the project. For this matter, it is important that we keep operations on track, providing security and showing that our system works”, emphasizes Romano, reinforcing that it is all a matter of taking care of the experience of both those who donate and those who receive the donations. “From the business point of view, we were the ones who sent the most support to the victims of the war in Ukraine, for example. We even send surgical materials, underscoring our intention to go beyond providing food”.
Simple Nutri does not reveal numbers referring to the company’s growth and revenue, but, according to Romano, the operation is already sustainable. So much so, that raising a round of investment is not on the startup‘s plans.
“Today, we do not have the need for investment contributions. Our operations are already self-sufficient and provide the necessary financial health for us to leverage the process and expand. We are a slightly different startup because our product already exists, and our technology already exists. We don’t need new machines and technologies, the process just depends on applying a method to solve a problem in the world”, he explained, adding that Simple Nutri sees itself as a startup because it sees the possibility of scaling in the short term to a global market with demand growing, having a multidisciplinary and disruptive vision, without an increase in costs proportional to revenue.
The startup‘s next steps are to invest in packaging technology to further optimize the storage and transport of dehydrated foods. In addition, there are plans to improve the process so that, even after opening a package, the food has a longer shelf life and less waste.