Kemin Industries History

Kemin Industries is a family-owned and operated company that was founded in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. by R.W. Nelson and Mary Nelson.

When the company was founded in 1961, R.W. and Mary Nelson had five children under the age of seven, US$10,000 in a savings account, two product lines and a manufacturing plant in an old wool barn. Their initial goal was to develop innovative agricultural products and market them across the Midwestern U.S.

From these humble beginnings, Kemin has grown into a global ingredient manufacturer that touches 3.8 billion lives every day with its products and services. Kemin is a leader in the ingredient manufacturing industry, with a reputation for producing high quality, safe and efficacious food, feed and health-related products.

History of Kemin Industries Video


A Global Company Dedicated to Iowa and the Des Moines Community

Over the past half century, R.W. and Mary Nelson have strategically guided the company’s growth worldwide. In order serve a growing customer base, think globally and act locally, Kemin has established manufacturing facilities in nine countries and operations in more than 90 countries.

Our global expansion highlights include:

  • In 1970, Kemin opened its first regional headquarters in Herentals, Belgium. The sales and manufacturing facility allowed Kemin to efficiently work with customers across Europe.
  • In 1988, Kemin established a second regional headquarters with sales and manufacturing facilities in Singapore.
  • In 1994, Kemin established a sales and manufacturing site in Zhuhai, China.
  • In 1996, Kemin opened sales and manufacturing facilities in Chennai, India. Quickly outgrowing the manufacturing space, we later moved our Chennai manufacturing facilities in Gummidipundi, India.
  • In 2004, Kemin purchased a sales and manufacturing facility in Indaiatuba, Brazil.
  • In 2004, Kemin opened a sales and manufacturing facility in Johannesburg, South Africa, and opened a new regional headquarters in 2014.
  • In 2009, Kemin opened its second European manufacturing site in Veronella, Italy, and in 2010, purchased an encapsulation company and facility in Cavriago, Italy.
  • In 2017, Kemin opened a state-of-the-art sales and manufacturing facility in Lipetsk, Russia.
  • In 2017, Kemin acquired a beta-glucan manufacturing facility in Plymouth, Michigan.

Throughout years of global growth, Kemin has remained headquartered with sales, research and manufacturing facilities in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. In 2017, Kemin opened a $30 million worldwide headquarters buildingin the same site as the wool barn the company manufactured its first products.

As a global company dedicated to the Des Moines community, Kemin employs more than 600 Des Moines-based team members. The family-owned and operated company is actively involved in local non-profit and community organizations, providing sponsorships, donations and volunteer services.

Des Moines HQ

Using Science Improve the Quality of Life for Over Half a Century

During the 1980s, Kemin took on a more structured approach to research and development. Led by Dr. Chris Nelson, current President and CEO of Kemin, scientists were challenged to study molecules and understand their mode of action inside living organisms. 

This new approach to research and development spurred the company’s expansion into new markets. Leveraging the chemistry used to manufacture mold inhibitors and antimicrobials for animal feed, scientists discovered shelf life and freshness benefits for human food. Kemin antioxidant expertise transcended markets to become a key solution for the petfood industry.

Innovation with lutein, a carotenoid molecule Kemin had been selling into the animal feed industry for years, led to the establishment of the company’s first business unit, Human Nutrition and Health, in 1995. This division-focused model was adopted for the company’s expansion beyond animal nutrition and health into pet food and rendering technologies, food technologies, human nutrition and health, personal care and crop technologies markets.

History | Kemin Industries