John L. Holahan

Founder of SimplyThick, LLC

Starting His Career

After graduating with a B.S. in Paper Science and Engineering from the University of Minnesota, John L. Holahan began his career in Chicago with a division of Merck & Co., Inc.

Moving to St. Louis

When the division was sold to Monsanto, Holahan moved to St. Louis with more than three years of technical service experience including sales, marketing, and product management in the industrial ingredients industry.


While attending Washington University’s Executive MBA program in 2000, John Holahan met John Fiala. They teamed up on a class project that required them to develop a business plan.

Founding Simply Thick

Holahan, with an extensive background in chemistry and food thickeners, he suggested a business that made a more palatable liquid thickener – one that was completely different from existing starch-based thickeners.

Holahan’s goals for the liquid thickener were lofty.

The new product would…

Not affect taste
 Not affect appearance
 Not clump
 Mix easily with everyday, common utensils
 Be ready to drink immediately after mixing
 Work with as many beverages as possible
 Maintain consistency
 Minimize chances of staff errors 

Mixing the


He mixed the first batch in his kitchen and showed it to the speech pathologists at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Their enthusiasm for the concept inspired Holahan to fully develop the product. Clinical field reports, showed  that patients with swallowing disorders drank more liquids when they were mixed with SimplyThick and better complied with their dietary directives. 



After graduation from Washington University’s Executive MBA program, Holahan and Fiala formed their corporation with a name only an engineer could love (Phagia-Gel, LLC). SimplyThick was launched at the American Dietetic Association Food and Nutrition Conference and Exhibition in St. Louis. After launch, SimplyThick began sales and shortly after the company was renamed to match its revolutionary product – SimplyThick, LLC.



John Holahan’s goals for his product were a tall order, but they met those goals. And after 16 years and 750 million servings, SimplyThick can say that they’ve changed the industry. Over time, they haven’t stopped improving their product. SimplyThick has reduced preservatives, improved the taste profile, and re-invented their packaging. 



In February 2018, SimplyThick EasyMix was launched to solve the one remaining issue – ease of mixing.


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