Cargill began shipping grain down the Mississippi River in the late 1940s, but finding cargo for the return trip proved to be a challenge. In 1955 Ray King, vice president of Cargill’s barge business, made the decision to buy a barge load of Louisiana rock salt as backhaul cargo. Although it took a year to sell that first load, Cargill’s salt business was launched.
The backhaul salt business grew steadily, and by 1960 Cargill management was convinced that rock salt was a good fit for the company and began looking for opportunities to become a salt producer. Cargill acquired mineral rights in Belle Isle, Louisiana, and began construction of a rock salt mine. The first barge of Belle Isle rock salt was loaded in December 1962.
Business grew rapidly, and over the years Cargill acquired a number of other salt production facilities -- rock salt mines, evaporated salt plants and solar salt operations -- in Kansas, New York, Louisiana, California, Oklahoma and Australia. In 1995, Cargill formed a joint venture to construct a solar salt facility in Venezuela. Cargill Salt doubled in size in April 1997 when it acquired the North American assets of Akzo Nobel Salt, Inc.
Today, Cargill Salt produces, packages and ships salt for the following 5 major market segment applications: agricultural, food, water conditioning, industrial and packaged ice control. Cargill makes over 1,000 different salt products/package sizes and markets national and regional brands, including Diamond Crystal® branded household consumer food and water softener salt products and Champion's Choice® branded agricultural salts. With approximately 14 million tons of salt capacity, Cargill is one of the leading salt marketers in the world.