Takuzo (Tak) Tsuchiya
(1918 - 1999) American of Japanese ancestry, a dedicated mechanical engineer and inventor for more than 40 years. In a career that spans over 40 years at General Mills, Tsuchiya’s inventions were a significant factor in its profitability and success in the food processing industry. His inventions resulted in major advancements in cereal puffing, protein texturization, food processing and food conveying, contributing to the improved nutrition and health of people around the world. He invented 44 food processing methods, 21 of which were patented. He was known as one of the company’s "most innovative and capable machine design engineers during the 1950s." His most commercially important invention was the continuous puffing gun that revolutionized the ready to eat cereal process by increasing capacity, reducing labor and maintenance, and improving quality and consistency.
Discipline and patience are traits that helped him become a championship wrestler while attending the University of Washington and, in 1940, to earn a Grade III Black Belt designation in Judo, the highest rank possible in the U.S. at that time. These same traits were evident in his continuous quest for a better way to do things, which guided Tsuchiya throughout his very productive career.
Tsuchiya’s family was caught up in the hysteria following events at Pearl Harbor and was uprooted and moved to the Midwest. During the war Tsuchiya served two years with the Army Corps of Engineers in Europe. Returning from the service in 1944, he was hired at General Mills as a mechanical engineer, where he stayed for 36 years. During that time he established himself as one of the finest mechanical engineers and one of the most prolific inventors ever employed by the company. Throughout his productive career, he could always be found in the "trenches" reinforcing the importance of teamwork to his colleagues. Tsuchiya’s scientific approach to problems saved the company millions of dollars in processing operations.
The projects he helped develop were the vibratory conveyor system that reduced the vibrations transmitted to the floor; Gorton’s fish cutters, which virtually eliminated the waste caused by saw blades, and Gorton’s clam-shucking process, which doubled the efficiency of the former gas-heat method. His inventions were instrumental in the automation of systems used for preparing ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. He was also instrumental in developing automated systems for steam texturizing of vegetable protein to produce meat analogues. These systems are highly efficient and economical in operation. A meat analogue, also called meat substitute, approximates the aesthetic qualities – primarily texture, flavor and appearance – and/or chemical characteristics of certain types of meat. The market for meat-less foods includes health-conscious non-vegetarians, non-vegetarians who prefer the taste of certain meat analogues, persons following rules of Kashrut (kosher), or vegetarians and vegans.