Since 1853, Lesaffre and Red Star have been the proven world leaders in yeast research, technology, and manufacturing. Today, we continue to demonstrate our commitment to innovation through our growing lines of conventional, organic and non-GMO yeast & ingredients brought to market through our Red Star®, Saf-Instant® and Saf-Pro® Ingredients brand products.
Lesaffre Yeast Corporation is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lesaffre Group, and Red Star Yeast Company is a joint venture between the Lesaffre Group and Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM). Together Lesaffre and Red Star serve the baking industry and are recognized throughout North America—and the world—for their superior quality, innovation, and unparalleled technical support.
About the Lesaffre Group
The Lesaffre Group is the world leader in yeast, yeast extracts, and baking ingredients, with an industrial presence in more than 44 countries and 8,500 employees throughout the world. The Lesaffre Group has been family-owned since 1853, and headquartered in Lille, France. You can learn more about the Lesaffre Group and our companies below.
In 1853, Louis Lesaffre and Louis Bonduelle, two farmer’s sons from northern France, got together to build a plant producing alcohol from grain and juniper berries at Marquette-lez-Lille. Originally, yeast was nothing more than a by-product of the process for manufacturing alcohol from grain.
In 1871 the Austrian Baron Max von Springer, owner of an excellent distillery at Maisons-Alfort, introduced from Vienna the idea of extracting yeast from the grain fermentation wort and selling it to bakers. Up until that time, bakers had used their own sourdough, sometimes accompanied by residual brewery yeast. The following year, Lesaffre and Bonduele developed the process of manufacturing fresh yeast at Marcq-en-Baroeul, with the operation being housed in a former mill.
By the turn of the century, the company was already selling abroad, with export destinations including Great Britain, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. Following the Second World War, a series of technological breakthroughs and innovations, backed by establishment of an efficient export sales network, enabled Lesaffre to achieve sustained growth. In order to be geographically closer to its customers and to be able to offer them the very best possible service, Lesaffre went on to establish itself on a worldwide basis across five continents.
In 1976, Saf-Instant® Yeast was first introduced to the United States and Canada. The product was manufactured in France and shipped to the United States. After the initial introduction, it was realized that the product, and the market, needed a baker’s perspective. Therefore, the field sales and technical team evolved into a group with many years of experience in all aspects of the baking industry.
The 1980s proved to be a great period of steady growth. In 1982, a conference was held to ask a cross-section of baking professionals what Lesaffre could do to make SAF Yeast the all-around best choice. Establishing these relationships and our outstanding technical team, placed SAF Yeast on the road to an even higher level of quality products and services. Key locations were established in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and California to support this growing yeast market. In 1986, to better serve the markets, one central office was established.
In 1997, SAF Consumer Company was founded to bring SAF Yeast into the kitchens of home bakers in the United States and Canada. Many home bakers had already discovered the quality and performance of SAF Yeast and were purchasing it from bakery distributors and gourmet shops nationwide. By 1999, SAF Perfect Rise Yeast had made it to shelves of over 10,000 Grocery Stores in the United States and Canada.
In February, 2001, Lesaffre Yeast Corporation further expanded its presence in the US yeast industry with the purchase of Red Star Yeast from Sensient Technologies Corporation. The Red Star family featured a consumer yeast brand as well as commercial products for the wholesale, bakery, foodservice and nutritional yeast industry. This merger continued to increase Lesaffre’s leadership position in the U.S. yeast industry and gave the resulting company a strong national network of plants delivering quality yeast products to bakers throughout North America.
In 2015, Lesaffre Yeast Corporation launched Saf-Pro® Ingredients as its new North American product brand for its growing line of conventional, non-GMO and organic baking ingredients. Saf-Pro Ingredients brings Lesaffre’s rich history and leadership in ingredient formulation from Europe to deliver new, innovative baking solutions to commercial bakers throughout North America.
Red Star History
In December 1882, three well-established German immigrants in Milwaukee, Wisconsin–Leopold Wirth, Gustav Niemeier and Henry Koch, Jr.—formed a new company, Meadow Springs Distillery. Brewing and distilling were already thriving businesses in Milwaukee and the three entrepreneurs saw a promising opportunity in this growing trade.
The three founders of the company actually knew very little about distillery operations. To make up for their lack of know-how and experience, they hired an expert manager, William Bergenthal, who owned his distillery and wholesale liquor business. William Bergenthal not only knew the distilling business, he also specialized in yeast production. Before he joined the company, his own business produced about half a ton of compressed yeast each day, which was sold in Milwaukee, Chicago, and St. Louis. With Bergenthal on the team, Red Star prospered and by 1885, the company produced 163,420 pounds of yeast. To reflect the growing ambitions and geographic reach of the business, the company’s leaders voted in 1887 to adopt a new name, National Distilling Company.
August Grau, an astute businessman and experienced distiller, became president in 1887 and set about improving and modernizing the yeast operations of the company. He invested in a filtering press for squeezing yeast, and later enhanced the drying process with new machinery. In 1890, the company opened a laboratory to improve the quality control of yeast production.
In the first years of production, yeast was marketed under a variety of names, including Battle Axe, Blue Star, Lion and White Star. Eventually the name Red Star Yeast became the most popular, and the company expanded under this brand name. By the end of 1893, the company had yeast distribution branches in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, St. Paul and a handful of other cities throughout the Midwest. In 1919, the company’s Board of Directors voted to adopt a new name, making its best-known brand the official corporate name. For the next 43 years, the company operated under the name of Red Star Yeast and Products Company.
In the 1920s, the company’s yeast business grew rapidly. The company invested in research to improve the manufacturing process and performance of what was called aerated yeast. In addition to upgrading its own laboratory and pilot plant, the company sponsored fellowships and an experimental plant at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
The company’s scientific expertise played an important role in keeping soldiers fed and fighting during World War II. Until the end of the war, compressed yeast required a moisture level of 70 percent. Moisture added bulk and weight to yeast and reduced its shelf life. Shortly before the U.S. entered the war, the company began to develop active dry yeast with a moisture level of just 8 percent. Over the next four years, the company produced more than 5 million pounds of this new form of yeast to use in mobile army kitchens overseas.
In the 1960s, the company expanded beyond yeast, adding seasonings and institutional food products, thus adopting a new name, Universal Foods, in 1962. During the 1980s and 1990s Universal Foods continued to its expansion into other food businesses resulting in Red Star Yeast no longer fitting in with Universal’s long-term strategy.
In 2001, Lesaffre Group, the world leader in the science of yeast, acquired Red Star Yeast from Sensient Technologies (formerly Universal Foods) and Lesaffre entered into a joint venture with ADM to create what we know today as Red Star Yeast Company. Together, they opened a state-of-the-art yeast plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa which opened in 2006.