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Soy sauce maker planning $800M expansion in Jefferson County

WEDC Board approved $15.5M in performance-based tax credits this week to support Kikkoman Foods project

Kikkoman rendering
A rendering of what Kikkoman Foods’ planned manufacturing facility in Jefferson could look like. Photo courtesy of WEDC

Soy sauce manufacturer Kikkoman Foods is planning an $800 million expansion in Wisconsin that could create 83 new jobs over the next 12 years.

The Japanese company is expanding its brewing plant in Walworth and building a new facility in Jefferson. This week, Gov. Tony Evers announced the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors approved $15.5 million in tax credits to assist with the effort. 

The Jefferson facility will be Kikkoman’s third plant in the United States, just 37 miles from the company’s first U.S. facility in Walworth. Since the Walworth facility opened in 1973, the governor’s office says it’s grown to become the company’s highest-producing soy sauce plant in the world. 

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Sam Rikkers, chief operating officer for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., said the company took a risk when it came to the state more than 50 years ago.

“That risk has paid off both for Wisconsin and for Kikkoman, and that’s why you see Kikkoman doubling down on its investment in Wisconsin,” he said.

In a statement, Gov. Evers said Wisconsin and Japan have had long-standing business ties, as Japan accounts for more than $700 million of the state’s exports. 

“Whether it’s providing thousands of local jobs, bolstering our economy, or providing the state and world with phenomenal soy sauce, Kikkoman is doing good work across Wisconsin and the country, and I am grateful for their continued partnership and expansion in Wisconsin,” Evers said.

The state Legislature has 14 business days to review the performance-based tax credits. Rikkers said the company needs to hit jobs and investment targets to qualify for the development incentives.

Over the last several years, Kikkoman conducted a national search for the site of its third U.S. manufacturing facility before selecting a 100-acre site in Jefferson. 

Kikkoman Corp. Chief Executive Officer and board chair Yuzaburo Mogi said in a statement the company’s positive experience in Walworth contributed to choosing Jefferson.

“We have always valued Walworth for its great market access, outstanding workforce, central location for raw materials, pure water, and the open-hearted spirit of partnership of the local community,” he said. “We chose Jefferson for those same reasons, and we look forward to expanding our footprint in Wisconsin and establishing a supply chain with increased stability in North America, Kikkoman’s largest overseas market.”

Kikkoman is expected to break ground on the initial phase of a 250,000-square-foot plant in June. The facility will produce soy sauce, teriyaki sauce and other soy sauce-related seasonings. The company hopes to begin shipping product from the Jefferson facility in 2026. 

Tim Freitag, Jefferson city administrator, said Kikkoman Foods will be the anchor business in a development area the city and county hope to fill with other food and beverage companies. 

“The tax base that that development will provide really is the means to make a pretty significant investment in streets and utility extensions to serve the property,” he said.

Freitag said the city partnered with Jefferson County, local economic development groups and WEDC to help Kikkoman choose the Jefferson location.

“It takes that collaboration, I think, with a development like this to really make it come to realization,” he said. “I’m very thankful for our relationships with these other groups.”

State officials say the new plant will use energy efficient equipment and renewable energy to reduce its carbon footprint.

Rikkers said there’s alignment between Kikkoman’s commitment to sustainability and the Evers Administration’s goals of Wisconsin reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

“The alignment and investment in Jefferson is a reflection of where those values, both the company’s commitment and our state’s commitment, can really align,” he said. “When WEDC is working with companies to support their growth, those are certainly really important factors.”