William F. Piel Sr. began the Union Starch Company near the downtown area in 1867 as the city’s first starch plant. This small facility had a grind capacity of 3,000 bushels of com per day, but production halted on October 8, 1868, when it was destroyed in a fire. Piel rebuilt the plant at the same location, but an expansion in the customer base caused its relocation in 1872 to a site on the east bank of White River, just south of Morris Street.

A large three-story factory building. Several men are working in front of the building.
The National Starch and Chemical Company, 1943 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Piel dissolved the Union Starch Company in 1873 and reorganized it as the William F. Piel Company, with a grind capacity of 5,000 bushels a day. For the next quarter-century, the company provided customers in Indianapolis and central Indiana with starch products. In 1899, it merged with a number of other small midwestern starch manufacturers to form the National Starch Manufacturing Company. The next year, National Starch Manufacturing merged with Union Starch to form the National Starch Company.

Piel’s three sons soon after withdrew from the company and built a new plant on the west bank of the White River. Piel Brothers Starch Company operated from 1900 to 1939 and had a grind capacity of approximately 7,800 bushels a day. In 1902, National Starch acquired several other small plants and changed its name to the Corn Products Company. The name was later changed to the Corn Products Refining Company. In 1939, a subsidiary, the National Adhesives Corporation, bought Piel Brothers for $225,000 and began producing starch under the name National Starch Products, Inc. An explosion and fire leveled the central manufacturing portion of the plant in May 1942, but the company rebuilt the damaged facility.

Two men work in a factory. One man is filling a large bag with product while the other uses machinery to sew another bag shut.
National Starch Products Inc. employees, 1944 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

The company changed its name to National Starch and Chemical Corporation in 1959 to reflect the widening scope of its manufacturing efforts, and its Indianapolis plant underwent a major expansion in 1965 with a 30 percent increase in plant capacity. National Starch built its Raymond Street plant in another major expansion in 1978. 

During that same year, international corporate giant Unilever paid twice the book value of National Starch, $484 million, to acquire its stock. National Starch fit well into Unilever’s portfolio of companies and used the materials that National Starch produced to manufacture its products. The company again changed its name to National Starch and Chemical Company. Although Unilever was its corporate parent, the operation of National Starch remained relatively unchanged. In 1993, the company, with headquarters in Bridgewater, New Jersey, had approximately 600 Indianapolis employees.

In 1997, Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), a British corporation headquartered in London, purchased the company. Ingredion, based in Westchester, Illinois, acquired National Starch when it took over ICI in 2008. Ingredion maintains National Starch headquarters at 1515 Drover Street.

Revised February 2021

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