Skip Navigation

A History of Innovation

Pioneering the Field, Launching an Industry

An early Wenger portable mixer
Building on their breakthrough high molasses feed mixer, the Wenger brothers introduced another innovation — the first portable feed mixers.

Explore
our History
  • 1935

    Our grandfathers Joe and Lou found the Wenger Mixer Company in the midst of the infamous “Dust Bowl” that ravaged American farms. To aid their fellow farmers, the Wenger brothers created a breakthrough grinder-blender system that added molasses to low-value roughage, providing desperately needed cattle feed. And an industry is born.

    1935
    Following a devastating fire of the original Wenger Brothers Feed Mill in 1931, Joe and Lou quickly rebuilt the mill and were back in business in just over a month.
  • 1939

    Wenger begins extrusion experiments, pressing high-molasses feed mixtures through a die to form pellets.

  • 1940s

    The U.S. enters WWII and restricts commodity trading. Wenger stops production until the end of the war. In 1945, Wenger is back in business with Joe leading sales at Wenger Mixing and Lou pioneering machinery at Wenger Manufacturing. Known together as “Wenger,” the brothers take on new space and team members to meet demand.

  • 1955
    Lou Wenger and Oak Smith visit in Lou’s office during a Wenger Open House in 1955.
    1955

    Master salesman Oak Smith joins Wenger as Sales Manager. Oak’s vision of Wenger technology helping solve world hunger plants the seed for our future charity work.

  • 1956

    Master salesman Oak Smith joins Wenger as Sales Manager. Oak’s vision of Wenger technology helping solve world hunger plants the seed for our future charity work.

  • 1958
    1958

    Wenger revolutionizes the industry a second time by inventing the cooking extruder, an innovation that forever changed both human and pet food production.

  • 1960

    Wenger extends innovations into smaller extruders ideal for the pet food industry and pioneers food safety for human food applications, such as breakfast cereals.

    1960
    An extruder from the 1959-60 product line designed specifically for human food applications (left); production in full swing at the Wenger plant in 1963 (right).
  • 1965

    The Wenger Technical Center opens and becomes the largest extrusion research lab in the industry, spurring innovations across pet, aquatic and human foods.

  • 1969

    Wenger begins its decades long collaborations with research universities to advance food technologies, beginning with Kansas State University and the University of Nebraska, and eventually Purdue University, the University of Maryland and others.

  • 1970
    1970s

    Wenger partners with UNICEF to formulate the world’s first extrusion-cooked, fortified food to feed hungry children in developing countries. The efforts culminate in Grains of Hope, a partnership between Wenger, Sabetha High School and the Daily Bread Foundation, to target hunger issues in Mozambique.

  • 1973

    Wenger diversifies into individual industry segments, snacks, petfoods and textured vegetable proteins. Wenger creates the world’s first textured soy protein, which eventually caught global attention as consumers sought healthier alternatives to meat in the 1990s.

  • 1977

    Joe and Lou promote their sons, LaVon and Don, to the roles of President and Vice President, respectively. Joe and Lou continue in their roles on the company’s Board of Directors

    1977
  • 1980

    Wenger presents its innovative “cook test” to the Institute of Food Technologists and the American Association of Cereal Chemists. Today, iterations on this evaluation are used around the world.

  • 1985
    1985

    NASA and the American Institute of Baking approach Wenger to solve experimental food for animal testing in space. In 1990, the Space Shuttle launches with Wenger-made “rat bars.”

  • 1985

    Wenger introduces the twin screw extruder, which goes on to dominate the international market.

  • 1993

    Founder Joe Wenger passes away, and is followed in 1995 by his brother and lifelong collaborator, Lou. 1995 also sees the passing of their trusted team member Oak Smith.

  • 2000

    More than 80 percent of the world’s pet food is manufactured by Wenger extruders.

  • 2008
    2008

    Two generations of Wenger leadership in the Wenger Technical Center: Jeff Wenger, Don Wenger, Lafe Bailey, Brad Wenger, LaVon Wenger, Marc Wenger (left to right)

  • 2018

    Wenger remains true to our heritage of innovation, shaping the industry’s future at engineering, manufacturing, research and administrative facilities in Sabetha, Kansas. With offices in Kansas City, Brazil, Turkey, Belgium, India, Taiwan and Beijing, Wenger is truly a global company. Today, we remain a family-owned business committed to groundbreaking innovation.

    Map

“As we look to the future, we pledge to guide this company with the invaluable tools and integrity instilled in us by our forefathers. And, rest assured, the innovation will continue.”

Brad Wenger, Jeff Wenger, Lafe Bailey, Marc Wenger Wenger Manufacturing