Lodge Manufacturing Still Makes Your Grandmother’s Cast Iron Skillet

There’s a basic paradox in the cast iron cookware business: the very longevity, durability, and flexibility that are your products’ main selling points also mean that customers don’t have to replace them very often. By “not very often” we mean that there are plenty of century-old griddles, skillets, and waffle irons still in use. That’s a wonderful thing…unless you’re in the cast iron biz.

Just ask Bob Kellermann, great-grandson of Joseph Lodge and chief executive of the company he started in 1896. It’s wonderful when people tell him that they still use their grandma’s skillet that came out of his company’s foundry…but that kind of longevity isn’t very good for business. “The bitch of it is there’s no planned obsolescence,” he tells a Bloomberg Businessweek reporter in a fascinating profile of the company.

Not that the company is hurting. Twelve years ago, they introduced pre-seasoned skillets that appeal to just about everyone, not just campers and antique collectors. Big-box stores have since picked up Lodge’s products, most of which are made at their foundry in Tennessee. Related products like matching stainless-steel skillets and enameled cast iron cookware are imported from what the company calls its “partner foundry” in China.

While you might still be using your grandma’s cast-iron Dutch oven, she probably didn’t have a panini press or cactus-shaped baking pan to pass down. You could, though, and your grandchildren might even thank you for it.

America’s Last King of Cast Iron Finds His Time Has Come Again [Bloomberg Businessweek]