Our Brand Story
Vermicular’s origins date back to 1936, when the Hijikata family founded Aichi Dobby, a small foundry specializing in the manufacture of cast iron dobby looms—essentially industrial sewing machines—in Nagoya, Japan. Over time, the foundry became renowned for its ability to cast and machine with extreme accuracy. However, when the industrial momentum of the 20th century came to a close, Aichi Dobby’s position grew precarious. The company transitioned into a tier-2 supplier, manufacturing industrial cast iron components for ships and cranes. Survival as a tier-2 supplier was very challenging, especially during the prolonged recession that hit Japan in the 1990s. As a result, the company became financially unstable, with employees dwindling year by year.
Two Brothers, One Shared Passion
Kuni and Tomo, the third generation Hijikata brothers, were confronted by a volatile business environment as heirs to their family’s long-standing company. Despite trying times, they were determined to preserve what their grandfather had started and save the livelihoods of their dedicated team of craftspeople by revitalizing their family’s cast iron foundry.
Kuni and Tomo immediately began working on the shop floor, training to become craftsmen themselves. The elder Kuni became a certified casting expert, while the younger Tomo mastered the skills of precision engineering. They both understood that to survive as a company, they had to differentiate themselves by creating a product that had not existed anywhere in the world. The challenge was compounded by the fact that they had to do so as a company with significant accumulated debt. So they put their heads together and got creative.
Tomo’s research allowed him to develop an appreciation for cast iron’s importance to cooking. It was a material revered worldwide by cooks at all levels, and there were a number of fine enameled cast iron pots on the market. A unique insight revealed itself when he found that stainless steel and aluminum pots formed a superior seal between the lid and pot than their cast iron counterparts. However, it was indeed possible, Tomo thought, to utilize his company’s cast iron expertise to create enameled cast iron pots with perfectly-fitted lids, which would serve to amplify the naturally delicious, inherent flavors of ingredients.
The Journey: Creating the “World’s #1 Flavor-Improving Pot”
Despite the company’s 80+ years of cast iron mastery, cookware was a completely new challenge—and a risky move in an even more perilous business climate—even for a company that specialized in manufacturing cast iron industrial components. The Hijikata brothers Kuni and Tomo found that there was no precedent in the enamel-coating process in Japan. In other words, they would have to pioneer it themselves.
Nevertheless, the biggest challenge remained: achieving the cast iron pot’s virtually airtight seal. The difficulty lay in the fact that when baked at 1,500°F, cast iron could not resist warping. Kuni and Tomo continued to conduct trials but achieving both the precision seal and enamel coating seemed like an unattainable goal. Making matters worse, it was during this phase when the global financial crisis occurred.
The Hijikata brothers were at a crossroads. They had not yet finished developing the signature precision seal but were faced with a tough decision: move forward with a “good enough” product to keep the company afloat? Or continue developing to achieve the precision seal with the family business on the line? Kuni believed in the team and the vision of creating “the world’s #1 flavor-improving pot” and rallied them to carry through to the end.
After three years and over 10,000 iterations later, their efforts were realized when the Hijikata brothers introduced the first Vermicular enameled cast iron pot in 2010—complete with our signature precision seal designed to amplify the natural flavors of ingredients. Praised for its quality, unprecedented fit, and performance, the Vermicular enameled cast iron pot quickly became a success in Japan, resulting in a 15-month backorder.
What’s in a Name?
Our brand got its name from the wormlike shape of iron molecules used in our cast iron cookware called vermicular graphite iron. It is a unique element known for having the hybrid characteristics of exceptional heat conduction and durability. The material played a pivotal role in achieving our signature precision seal, making our cast iron cookware one of a kind. Honoring our heritage as a cast iron manufacturer for 80+ years in business, we named it Vermicular.
The journey continues to this day with our relentless pursuit of enhancing the joy of home cooking by making the best products in the world.