From Dog Food Diet Challenge to State‑of‑the‑Art Expansion: Muenster Milling Boosts Its Freeze-Dried Pet Food Footprint in North Texas

The 92-year-old North Texas brand, propelled into the spotlight in 2020 with its 'viral' 30-day dog food diet challenge, is opening a cutting-edge facility to meet the demand in the freeze-dried pet food sector. As consumers eye health conscious options for their furry companions, it's blending tradition with innovation under new leadership to fuel future growth.

Set to meet a growing demand for freeze-dried pet food, Muenster Milling Company has completed construction on a state-of-the-art freeze-drying facility in Denton.

The 120,000-square-foot facility equipped with over 20 freeze dryers and automated equipment “has all the capabilities under one roof that brands and retailers need to bring their innovation pipelines to life,” according to Jim Holdrieth, CEO of Muenster Milling.

‘One of the fastest-growing categories within pet food’

Jim Holdrieth

Freeze-dried pet food has become increasingly popular among pet owners seeking high-quality, nutritious options for their furry companions, the CEO said. “Freeze dried is a versatile product format that can be a meal, functional treat, inclusion, or topper, and it remains one of the fastest-growing categories within pet food, experiencing double-digit volume growth and $1 billion of sales in 2023,” he said in a statement.

Holdrieth, who was named CEO of the 92-year-old company in late 2023, noted that brands are “increasingly looking to enter or grow within the category, and they require sophisticated manufacturing partners to help them do so.” Muenster focuses on “made in Texas” pet food and the new facility allows it to produce a wider range of freeze-dried products, including complete meals, functional treats, and single-ingredient options.

“The new facility has all the capabilities under one roof that brands and retailers need to bring their innovation pipelines to life,” said Jim Holdrieth, CEO of Muenster Milling.

Demand for high-quality, nutritious pet food overall also continues to grow. Muenster said the vertically integrated facility features raw meat processing capabilities and automated mixing and blending equipment, enabling the company to create innovative “Kibble Plus” and “Freeze Dried Plus” products that combine freeze-dried proteins with kibble and freeze-dried vegetables.

Muenster Milling said it has “invested heavily in its R&D and quality organization to deliver the highest quality pet food products in the market,” adding that the company’s in-house R&D capabilities allow for custom formulation and product development to meet the specific needs of their customers.

30-Day dog food diet challenge sparked global interest

Mitch Federhoff in Muenster Milling’s documentary on his 30-day menu of pet food. [Video Still: Muenster Milling]

Mitch Federhoff in Muenster Milling’s documentary on his 30-day menu of pet food. [Video Still: Muenster Milling]

The company has been making pet food in the tiny town of Muenster, Texas, since 1932. The company gained national attention in 2020 when Mitch Felderhoff, a fourth-generation owner and the president of Muenster Milling, ate nothing but the company’s dog food for 30 days to demonstrate his confidence in the quality and nutritional value of their products. 

His decision to eat nothing but Muenster Milling’s dog food for 30 days was a turning point for the company. The unconventional move garnered significant media attention and led to a surge in demand for its products.

The increased exposure had a global impact, with Felderhoff telling Pet Food Processing, “We’ve been run over with requests from overseas to export product to them, and we had over one million impressions on several different Instagram posts in South Korea and Taiwan.”

The 30-day challenge not only boosted sales but also prompted Muenster Milling to expand their product line and manufacturing capabilities.
“Thanks to this, we focused and expanded our efforts on customizing bags of dog food,” Felderhoff told Pet Food Processing at the time. “[Eating dog food] got really, really boring, so we pushed to expand our capabilities on customizing bags of food as well as expanding our freeze-dried facility.”

Acquisition and new leadership fuel growth

In 2021, Muenster Milling was acquired by Kainos Capital, a private equity firm specializing in food and consumer businesses, in partnership with family owners Mitch and Chad Felderhoff. The acquisition provided the resources and expertise needed to scale the business and expand manufacturing capabilities.

The appointment of Holdrieth as CEO last November further solidified Muenster Milling’s position as a leader in the pet food industry. With over 30 years of manufacturing experience, Holdrieth holds a wealth of knowledge and a process-driven approach to commercializing innovative food manufacturing technologies, the company said in a news release at the time. 

“We have a long history with [Holdrieth], who oversaw transformational growth at our investment in Florida Food Products,” said Kevin Elliott, partner at Kainos Capital, in the news release. “He is the right leader for Muenster at this time as we dramatically scale the company’s manufacturing and new product development capabilities.”

Jeff Moredock, also a principal at Kainos Capital, noted that “Muenster is well recognized as an innovative partner to the leading brands in the pet food market.”

In November, CEO Holdrieth shared his enthusiasm about the company’s future, saying, “The Felderhoff family has built a terrific pet food business with attractive growth potential as consumers move toward ‘better for my pet’ meals and treats … I am excited to continue Muenster’s 92-year legacy while leading its transformation into a market leader within the freeze-dried category.”

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