The company was founded in Japan more than three centuries ago, making it one of the world’s oldest food brands. But although it is still headquartered in Japan, Kikkoman is now the world’s leading manufacturer of soy sauce, operating all around the globe. And the story of how it grew from a Japanese company to a beloved global food brand begins here in the USA.
In the mid-1600s, a family set up a soy sauce brewery in the farming community of Noda along the Edo River, not far from present-day Tokyo. Today, nearly twenty generations later, descendants of that family still run Tokyo-based Kikkoman Corporation.
In the early years of the twentieth century, Kikkoman began exporting its soy sauce to the United States, and by the 1970s, the company had grown demand for soy sauce in North America to an all-time high.
So, in 1973, the company made the bold decision to build its own production facility in North America. Just as that original family had chosen the modest farming community of Noda three centuries earlier, Kikkoman settled on Walworth, Wisconsin, a small town ideally situated in the heart of America’s fertile soybean and wheat country.
It was a major investment and a risky proposition, but it paid off. The Walworth plant would become the largest soy sauce production facility in the western world.
And back in the early ’70s when other now-famous Japanese automotive and electronics companies were just beginning to think about manufacturing in America, Kikkoman’s Wisconsin plant made history as the first major production facility built by a Japanese company in the United States.
Left: Walworth, Wisconsin Plant Opening, June 1973
This year, as Kikkoman marks its 50th anniversary of brewing soy sauce in North America, we asked some team members from Kikkoman Sales USA (KSU) to reflect on the company’s significance as a leading Asian food brand in America.