Life in Muenster, Texas, a tiny German-American town of 1,731 people near the Oklahoma border, isn’t lived in the fast lane. But one family there is on the cutting edge: the Felderhoffs, four-generation owners of Muenster Milling.
Founded in 1932 as a flour milling business by Joe Felderhoff, the company was transformed to a high-quality livestock feed mill when Joe’s son Arthur returned from World War II. Then in 1989, Arthur’s son Ronnie shook things up by moving it into the pet food business. Ten years later he launched Muenster Natural—one of the first all-natural pet food diets.
From freeze-dried elk to probiotics
Today Muenster offers “custom dog food enhancements” that look like a 5-star menu. When you order a bag, they add ingredients your dog likes best and needs most—like bacon fat, beef bone broth, freeze-dried elk, salmon oil for their joints, and coconut oil to help prevent seizures and cognitive decline.
Does your dog need to cut the carbs? They’ll add dried salmon. Digestion problems? Muenster will add probiotics.
The Felderhoffs’ love for pets was bound to get them noticed far beyond the Muenster city limits. And not just by pet owners.
Kainos Capital acquisition
Today Dallas-based Kainos Capital announced that it has acquired Muenster Milling in partnership with Mitch and Chad Felderhoff. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Kainos is a private equity firm that specializes in acquiring and managing food and consumer businesses. They see great potential for Muenster’s growth.
“We believe Muenster has a powerful value proposition to pet owners seeking clean-label, high-protein and convenient pet food and treats,” said Andrew Rosen, managing partner of Kainos, in a statement. “The Kainos team has been investing behind these themes for many years, and we plan to leverage the Kainos operations team to expand and further professionalize Muenster’s manufacturing capabilities.”
Kainos partner Kevin Elliott believes that Muenster’s products “truly meet the needs of today’s pet owners.”
Muenster co-owner Chad Felderhoff said maintaining his family’s legacy was important to the deal.
“It’s very important to us that Kainos values and appreciates the culture that our family has built at Muenster Milling since 1932,” he said in the statement. “Their operational capabilities will be invaluable as we scale the business and add capacity for future growth.”
Mitch Felderhoff’s 30-day menu: Pet food
The Felderhoffs aren’t just good dog food makers. They also make cat food and horse feed with a focus on quality, healthy options. In January 2020, Mitch Felderhoff—the company’s president—was overweight and out of shape, and decided to put Muenster’s products to the test.
For 30 days, he only ate Muenster Milling dog food.
Mitch decided to do it while on a rare vacation with his wife, Aubree. “I was trying to figure out how to compete with the voices of the national brands who spend millions of dollars, without spending millions of dollars,” he wrote in a blog post. “I thought, ‘what can I do that the CEO of Nestle, Mars, or Blue Buffalo probably wouldn’t be willing to do?’ I looked at my wife and told her ‘When we get back, I’m only eating our dog food for 30 days.'”
“I want people to know that we are so passionate about what we do, that we’ll do anything we can to make sure we’re providing the best food possible for their dog. So much so, that we’ll even eat it ourselves,” he wrote in a blog post.
“Am I saying that because I did well on it, dogs will?” he added. “No, that’s absurd, that’s why we work with a Ph.D. nutritionist who has over 30 years of experience in our field. I’m doing it because I want people to know that we don’t just guess about our ingredients, suppliers, and process—we trust it.”
After 20 days, he wrote “I’m down 20 pounds and feel absolutely fantastic. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol or a cup of coffee in three weeks and feel better for it. I’ve never felt more confident in the products we’re producing, or the team that’s producing them. I feel like I’m living the life I was meant to live, even if it means I’m eating dog food.”
News about Mitch’s diet was reported on national and local media, bringing the company valuable publicity. It also led to new business.
“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,” Mitch told Pet Food Processing last year.
The 30-day challenge led to changes in the Muenster product line, too.
“Thanks to this, we focused and expanded our efforts on customizing bags of dog food,” Mitch told Pet Food Processing. “[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. We recently purchased three more freeze-dryers to help accommodate growth.”
More than a pet food company—a content company
Mitch’s dog-diet adventure is just one example of Muenster’s innovative marketing and outreach. They think of themselves as not just a pet food company, but a content company. Their website is loaded with blog posts about everything from “How do I help with my dog’s allergies?” to “Preventing obesity in dogs” to a no-brainer topic: “What’s the best dog food?”
A vision for dogs, Muenster employees, and America
“Chad and I have a vision for our business,” Mitch wrote in his blog. “We want to feed as many dogs as we can a healthier diet than the conventional pet food options on the market. We want to provide customized solutions tailored to individual dogs. We want to employ hundreds of people and pay them above-market rates for their talent.”
“We want to make a difference in independent and family-owned pet stores across the country. We want to inspire others to do the same and hope that by leading a company of faith that we can slowly inspire that in other areas of the country.”
It all comes back to family
“Our parents raised us to value hard work (which I’m incredibly grateful for),” Mitch wrote in his blog. “We would routinely witness them work 12-hour days Monday-Friday, and then head back to the office on Saturdays and Sundays during some times of the year. So, naturally, if I’m not putting in 60 hours a week, I feel inadequate and like I’m letting someone down, mainly myself. I don’t know why exactly, other than that’s what I’ve equated to winning.”
With today’s Kainos Capital acquisition and partnership, Mitch, Chad, and the Felderhoff family have definitely won one. Maybe they deserve to rest for a day.
While he’s at it, Mitch might think about having a good meal too.
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