Kemin Industries History

Kemin Industries is a family-owned-and-operated company that was founded in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.A. 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, USD $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 United States.

From these humble beginnings, Kemin has grown into a global ingredient manufacturer that strives to sustainably transform 80 percent of the world 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.

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. To serve a growing customer base, Kemin has established manufacturing facilities in more than 10 countries and operations in more than 90 countries.

Kemin global expansion highlights include: 

  • 1970 - Opened first regional headquarters in Herentals, Belgium. The sales and manufacturing facility allowed Kemin to efficiently work with customers across Europe.
  • 1988 – Established second regional headquarters with sales and manufacturing facilities in Singapore.
  • 1994 – Established sales office site in Zhuhai, China.
  • 1998 – Opened sales and manufacturing facilities in Chennai, India. 
  • 2000 - Moved the Chennai manufacturing facilities to Gummidipundi, India.
  • 2002 - Established a manufacturing site in Zhuhai, China.
  • 2004 – Purchased sales and manufacturing facility in Indaiatuba, Brazil. Opened sales and manufacturing facility in Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • 2009 – Opened the second European manufacturing site in Veronella, Italy.
  • 2010 – Purchased encapsulation company and facility in Cavriago, Italy.
  • 2014 – Created a new regional headquarters in Johannesburg.
  • 2017 – Opened a state-of-the-art sales and manufacturing facility in Lipetsk, Russia. Acquired a beta-glucan manufacturing facility in Plymouth, Michigan, U.S.A.
  • 2018 – Acquired Garmon Chemicals, launching Kemin’s textile auxiliaries business unit, in the Republic of San Marino. Launched a new business unit, Kemin AquaScience, to serve the aquaculture industry.
  • 2019 – Announced a new global vision and debuted a new logo to guide the company to 2042 and beyond. 

Even with massive global growth, Kemin has remained headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.A. with sales, research and manufacturing facilities. In 2017, Kemin opened a USD $30 million worldwide headquarters building where the wool barn in which the company manufactured its first products once sat. 

As a global company dedicated to the Des Moines community, Kemin employs more than 650 Des Moines-based team members. The family-owned-and-operated company is actively involved in nonprofit and community organizations by offering support, engagement and volunteer assistance.

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 modes 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 pet food industry.

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

Family-Owned-and-Operated Company

Today, R.W. Nelson serves as Chairman of the Board. He plays an integral role in steering the company’s vision and its continued success, leading in-depth sales trainings with team members around the globe.  

Mary Nelson serves as Corporate Vice President and Chair of the Kemin Charitable Contributions Committee. Her leadership guides the company’s corporate philanthropic giving and promotes a culture of servant leadership.

Dr. Chris Nelson, son of R.W. and Mary Nelson, serves as President and CEO. Since Dr. Nelson became president in 1994, Kemin has more than quadrupled in size, venturing into new industries, technologies, and regions around the globe.

In 2001, Elizabeth (Libby) Nelson, daughter of R.W. and Mary Nelson, became Vice President and General Counsel for Kemin. Her leadership has been instrumental in protecting intellectual property and developing the company’s regulatory affairs, audit and environmental health and safety programs worldwide.

David Nelson, son of R.W. and Mary Nelson, joined the Board of Advisors in 2014. He is a real estate developer and operates a property management company in southern Indiana and northern Kentucky.

In 2017, Kimberly Nelson, daughter of Dr. Chris Nelson, joined Kemin as a business development manager for the company’s textile chemicals venture. Starting July 1, 2019, she will serve as President of Garmon Chemicals, the textile auxiliaries business unit.

Lucas Nelson, son of David Nelson, joined Kemin as an attorney in 2017. He is now General Manager of MedPharm Iowa, Iowa’s first medical cannabis manufacturer and dispensary, owned by Dr. Chris Nelson.

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