May 22, 2019Personifying Grit and Perseverance
Chris Kildow, the builder of the Muscle Milk® Brand and one of the leaders in the advancement of the sports nutrition category during the last 20 years, passed away in March after a courageous battle with cancer. Chris reshaped the Protein & Recovery Category—and in the process redefined the meaning of “Strong.”
For over a decade, CytoSport, Inc., maker of Muscle Milk® has held significant market share in the protein and sports nutrition products categories. In 2008, these categories quickly emerged in sports sponsorship, with Muscle Milk® and their Sr. Director of Sports Marketing, Chris Kildow igniting the explosion.
The rapid success of the protein industry made carving out the exclusive protein and recovery category difficult. The National Dairy Council and Gatorade reacted with new messaging and products of their own to compete with the family owned Muscle Milk®.
Chris had previous experience with MetRx. He understood the value of sports marketing and
how it would impact the strength and long-term growth of the brand. In the beginning, Muscle Milk® had limited distribution and not a lot of equity with rights holders, but the brand had someone who loved to jump in the ring and was determined to lock in exclusivity and cement itself as the go-to protein product in collegiate and professional sports.
Over the next 5-6 years, Kildow grew CytoSport’s sports marketing portfolio that consisted of marquee athlete endorsements and over 30 college and professional teams that he helped effectively leverage at retail. Through strategic integration with the company’s multiple business channels, the platform helped the company sustain double-digit growth each year during the span.
The drive and attitude evidenced in Chris’ leadership aligned with the brand’s identity of being STRONGER EVERYDAY™, until that was no longer physically possible.
In 2014, Kildow was inflicted with acute transverse myelitis, a rare infection in the spinal column that left him paralyzed from the waste down for over a month. His mental strength never wavered; in fact, he had regular visitors at the hospital that often turned into work meetings.
Not only did he learn to walk again through intense physical therapy, but within a year, Chris was competing in Half-Ironman Triathlons! It is the type of story you see Tom Rinaldi cover on ESPN, but the story does not end there.
Following an acquisition by Hormel Foods, Kildow’s expertise continued to direct the brand’s involvement in sports marketing. In 2016 Chris had to dig deep and fight off cancer, not once, but twice. All the while, making every effort to continue to drive to the office and push the business forward.
On March 19, 2019 Chris passed away comfortably and left us for a higher calling. We are lucky to have him watching over us.
His wife, Kristin, and daughters, Hannah and Olivia, celebrated Chris’ life on Easter weekend as they flew to Chicago to watch their beloved Cubs. Chris loved Wrigley Field and wasted no time sending his loving family a message…a foul ball landed in their laps and left them all with tears of joy.