china lily toronto

Toronto soy sauce factory shuts down and neighbourhood wonders what's coming next

After 73 years of selling one of Canada's most famous soy sauce brands, Lee's Food Products Ltd. has moved out of its factory in Leslieville.

The mysterious producer of the China Lily soy sauce brand vacated its longtime address at 1233 Queen Street East in August. 

According to the company, which was founded in 1947, Lee's Food Products has brought its soy sauce production to a facility in Scarborough. 

The company has also taken its iconic Chily Lily sign with it, to the dismay of some locals in a Leslieville community group, who've been speculating on who the new tenants of the brick and red-doored building will be.

A representative from Lee's Food Products says the company has no idea what business will secede their soy sauce factory. An A&W? A Shoppers Drug Mart? Soy Sauce Lofts, maybe? Who knows. 

At the time of publishing, no plans for a new development had been submitted to the City, so it's unclear what the future holds for 1233 Queen East. 

There are, however, plans for the properties a few units east of the old Lee's Food Products, which will eventually see the completed Post Lofts Condos, a six-storey mid-rise building currently being reviewed by the City.

The elusive company, whose soy sauce production was smelled but never seen (some locals say they rarely, if ever, saw workers going in or out of the factory) has been making its signature China Lily dark soy sauce since it was founded more than half a century ago. 

Their 483 mL bottles of dark soy sauce have been hard to find over the past few months, purportedly due to production issues, though the recent move explains the slight blip in its soy hydrolysis process. 

The company had a recall incident in 2018, when a batch of their sauce saw some non-harmful microbiological spoilage.

According to the commercial data company Dun & Bradstreet Corporation, Lee's Food Products makes an estimated $5.2 million CAD per year. You can find China Lily soy sauce online at the Real Canadian Superstore, Amazon, or Instacart. 

Lead photo by

Bryan Wilcox

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