Design Explained – Our Innovative Lids

Lids. Yes, we’re starting off 2019 talking about our lids.

Happy 2019, and we hope that you find this new series about how our smartly engineered product components work as interesting as we do! And lest you think we are a bunch of engineers sitting around geeking out about our products (which, we happily are!), we were inspired to write this series because of the many questions that you, our fans and enthusiasts, ask us.

One of the most frequently asked questions comes from those of you who use our bottles, lunch jars and food jars – the items that typically have screw-off lids. Upon first glance, many of our customers aren’t sure why our lids have multiple pieces, after all…isn’t one lid just like any other?

Of course not! We have designed our screw-off lids to cleverly solve a few problems, without requiring you to learn a new technology or to deal with lots of difficult processes. Let’s deconstruct the lid first.

It looks like a lot of pieces, but each one fits seamlessly and serves a purpose.

It looks like a lot of pieces, but each one fits seamlessly and serves a purpose. The Lid Cover and Lid Cover Gasket top the show. The Stopper Cover protects the inner stopper system, which is comprised of the Stopper, Valve Packing and Stopper Gasket, all of which help to prevent leaks. The Valve Packing helps manage pressure inside the main body that can be created when hot foods or drinks are stored in the container. The Lid Cover at the very top is removable to allow access to the Valve Packing when needed, and the extra space within the lid also creates an insulated barrier so that the temperature of the food or drink inside the main body is maintained.

Pressure release valve helps to release built-up pressure

The components of the inner stopper system are meant to seal the main body shut, and the Valve Packing manages the pressure inside of the container. Sometimes, when the containers are filled with hot foods or beverages, pressure can build up inside and seal the lid tightly onto the main body. This is great when you’re making Steel Cut Oatmeal To-Go in Your Food Jar, but not so great when you have to open that food jar! Rather than forcing the lid off, and potentially scalding yourself, we’ve designed the lid so that you simply take off the Lid Cover, insert a toothpick into one of the two small holes in the  Stopper, and release some of the pressure inside of the main body. This works the similar to the way pressure is released from a pressure cooker. Then, just screw the lid off and enjoy!

Removable mouth ring for drinking comfort

The Mouth Ring and Mouth Ring Gasket below the lid components are for drinking comfort, and the lid fits securely into this area. Additionally, the lid covers the area that touches your lips, keeping it clean. We’ve even heard that it’s great when your bottle rolls out of your bag onto the sandy beach, and the lid stays on to keep the drinking area clean of sand!

Most lids disassemble for thorough cleaning

Lids, because they come into contact with foods and beverages, can foster bacterial growth if they aren’t cleaned well and dried thoroughly. We’ve thought of that, too, and designed the lid to easily disassemble. Each component can be removed for thorough and hygienic cleaning.

Check out how convenient these smartly designed lids are – and of course, enjoy your fresh foods and beverages in our vacuum-insulated bottles, food jars and lunch jars. Our friendly Customer Service Representatives are available to answer any questions…especially the really geeky ones our product designers love!

Zojirushi Year in Review

Looking back on last year, 2018 was absolutely monumental for our favorite kitchenware company. Let’s take a quick look at some of the highlights from the historical year that was—

2018 marked the 100th birthday of Zojirushi, a landmark achievement for any company, period. Not many businesses can reach this milestone, especially in the competitive environment of home electronics. Zojirushi started in 1918 as a manufacturer of hand blown glass liners, which would eventually evolve into the thermal insulation technology for which it is famous today. To celebrate their 100th anniversary, Zojirushi in Japan produced a delightful anime called Share the Warmth, a story about a little girl who learns that sharing with others, is the most rewarding gift of all. It’s done in stop-motion style, one of my favorite animation forms. Check it out, you’re going to love it!

The company also went to the International Housewares Association show, as they do every year, where they unveiled their new products to the industry. Their booth was festively decorated to celebrate their 100th Anniversary, while a party was thrown for VIP guests. All the appetizers and food, including the sushi, was cooked and prepared using Zojirushi appliances. I covered the Housewares Show in one of my blog posts here.

Those new products, and more, were introduced throughout the year to us consumers. Among them were a new coffee maker called the Fresh Brew Plus, the “plus” part being a stainless mesh, permanent coffee filter that comes with it. For iced coffee, you use the special water fill markings for stronger coffee, to compensate for the ice. Neat, huh? No more guesswork!

Their new Water Boiler came out in June, with a stainless steel interior. This was an important innovation that answered the wishes of consumers who aren’t keen on nonstick coatings.

An upgraded Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker was introduced, which simplified and increased menu selection by displaying the full menu imprinted on the lid. The user only needs to reference the type of bread they want, and enter the corresponding number into the program. Oh, and congratulations Zojirushi, for being chosen as a finalist in the annual HomeWorld Design Awards for 2019—good luck in the contest!

The latest addition to Zojirushi’s Stainless Mugs was introduced as well, with a new and improved flip-open lid. The reason I love the Zojirushi brand of bottles is the way they completely disassemble for easy cleaning. It’s not like you have to do this all the time, but I feel it’s a good idea, to keep everything sanitary. The cool thing about these bottles is that you can purchase a low profile screw-off lid separately, as an alternative to the flip top. If you get a lid that’s a different color, you instantly get a two-tone colored bottle!

And finally, Zojirushi’s very first Toaster Oven was introduced this month. Compact and versatile, it’s the perfect size for singles and small families. The main feature is a mesh grill rack that prevents melting food from dripping onto the oven’s bottom tray or onto the heating elements. I gotta get me one of these!

Well, I hope everyone had a good one this year. I think we can safely say that Zojirushi certainly did. As for me, my oldest son is getting ready to graduate from college in 2019, and my daughter is getting ready to graduate high school. Being 4 years apart, they’ll be hitting major milestones at the very same time. And we as parents get to experience the whole college thing again, for the next 4 years. Fun, fun, fun!

Happy New Year, y’all!

An Acquired Taste of Japan – Unagipai!

UNAGI. PIE. Sounds like eel pie, doesn’t it? Maybe even like the eel pie and mash found in London shops. But nope. Because unagi pie is an awesome Japanese sweet treat!

What is unagipai? It’s a sweet butter cookie made with dried, powdered eel as one of the ingredients. This treat is a popular omiyage, or Japanese souvenir, and has a well-documented history.

Unagipai is a special pastry originating in Shizuoka Prefecture, near Lake Hamana. Lake Hamana is a freshwater lake renowned for its eel, which is found in a variety of local cuisine. A resident of the area, and a president of a pastry and wagashi shop called Shunkado, Mr. Koichi Yamazaki realized that all over Japan, the eel from Lake Hamana was famous. He was inspired to make a special treat in his shop, and package it so that it could be a unique souvenir that travelers to Shizuoka Prefecture could give to loved ones. So, in 1961, unagipai was born.

Photo by jetalone

Unagipai is a delicately crispy, oblong-shaped butter and sugar cookie inspired by palmier, a type of French pastry. The classic cookie is made using eel powder for a subtle yet complex taste, along with a bit of garlic powder, to counterbalance any fishy smell from the eel powder. Other flavors include unagipai with nuts and unagipai V.S.O.P, which contains brandy and macadamia nuts.

The cookie is famously considered a nighttime snack, and in Japan, that means something really fun! Mr. Yamazaki wanted to market unagipai as a “nighttime snack” because he thought people would enjoy them in the evening with their family when they got back from their travels. But there’s a double meaning! Back in the 60’s, the Hamamatsu area was known as a party area, with lots of nightlife. Combine that with the idea that unagi, or eel, enhances male prowess, many buyers assumed that unagipai was to be eaten at night as an aphrodisiac!

A Shunkado truck advertising unagipai (photo by Toru Miwa)

At Shunkado, unagipai is made in a factory by Unagipai Artisans. It can take up to ten years to be recognized as an Unagipai Artisan, and as part of their training, these chefs learn how to make the cookies while taking into account the quality of the ingredients, the outside temperature and humidity, and even how much pressure to place on the rolling pins to roll out the cookies for optimal crispiness. Artisans prepare the dough and then the cookies are baked in industrial-sized ovens. Packaging is automated, although workers are involved to ensure quality control. Visitors to the Shunkado shop can get a guided tour of the factory and of course, sample the goodies!

Unagipai is so beloved that it’s used as part of other desserts, sometimes filled with cream and fruit, and other times dipped in warm, melted chocolate.

No matter what, if you’re in Japan, definitely check out this unique food!

Main photo by 健ちゃん

Product Inspirations – Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker & Warmer (NP-NVC10/18)

Ahhh, December. The time of year for holidays and for hunkering down with warm, wholesome foods. At Zojirushi, we’re obviously fans of rice as a staple of those warm meals and are showcasing our top-of-the-line Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker & Warmer (NP-NVC10/18) to get you through the winter.

This rice cooker combines multiple cooking technologies to provide top-notch results each and every time. It’s made in Japan and comes in two sizes, 5.5 cups and 10 cups. As with our other rice cookers, it’s styled to coordinate with any kitchen décor and comes with two measuring cups and a rice spatula for your convenience.

But really, the most innovative features of this rice cooker are its technologies, including induction heating (IH) and pressure cooking, both of which are controlled by the fuzzy logic technology with artificial intelligence (AI). Whew! Say that fast 10 times!

Knowing how these three technologies work together helps to really understand why this is a superior rice cooker, so get ready for some tech talk.

This rice cooker uses induction heating as one of its cooking methods. When you look inside the rice cooker, you won’t see a heating element or plate, like those used in a radiant heat-dependent appliance. Instead, this rice cooker has a system of magnetic coils that are hidden within the body of the machine. When electricity is run through these magnetic coils, they instantly heat the stainless steel of the inner cooking pan, making the pan itself the ‘heating element’!

 

The heat can be controlled for precise tuning during cooking and the resulting rice is perfectly cooked, every time.

This rice cooker also uses pressure cooking to cook rice. Pressure cooking is simply the act of heating food under steam pressure in a sealed vessel, forcing liquid into the food in order to cook it. In the case of our rice cooker, once the menu setting has been selected, the machine automatically selects from the pressure levels that result in hard, medium or soft rice–the more pressure, the more liquid forced into the rice, and the softer it becomes. In our rice cooker, applying pressure while cooking also helps convert the hard beta starch in raw rice into alpha starch, making it softer and easier to digest. For example, brown rice will need more water forced into it to make it soft and fluffy whereas sushi rice won’t, since it needs to have a firmer texture. Plus, rice cooked under pressure has been found to stay softer longer, perfect for rice that will be stored before consumption.

Both cooking methods are controlled by the rice cooker’s microcomputer, or Micom for short. It’s programmed using advanced fuzzy logic technology with artificial intelligence that adjusts the cooking time and temperature for each menu setting. Fuzzy logic is important, because it can make subtle adjustments the cooking process, creating a flow that results in rice that’s perfectly cooked every time.

Considering there’s so much technology in this rice cooker, it’s surprisingly easy to use. All of the menu settings can be selected from the easy-to-read LCD panel and include menus for White Rice, in regular, softer or harder textures (see… different pressures!), Mixed Rice, Sushi/Sweet Rice, Porridge, Brown Rice, GABA Brown Rice, as well as Zojirushi’s exclusive UMAMI, Steam-Reduce and Scorch settings.

The Delay Timer, also accessible from the LCD control panel, allows you to program when you’d like the rice to be ready, and Keep Warm and Reheat settings keep your rice hot and fresh when you’re ready to eat.

Inside the machine, the easy to clean platinum-infused nonstick inner cooking pan (which heats beautifully because of induction heating!) makes sweeter tasting rice, and the detachable inner lid is fully washable and equipped with a filter to prevent small food particles from becoming stuck in the pressure system.

With all of these features, we know you’re going to make amazing dishes. Our favorite warming dish are Garlic Flavored Beef Yakimeshi, Kimchi Fried Rice and Rice and Beans with Bacon and Collard Greens. Check out some more rice cooker recipes on our website!

Happy cooking and happy end of year!

And don’t forget to share your favorites with us below.

The Voices of Zojirushi – Andrew!

It’s December and our final Voices of Zojirushi post. We hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know our employees this year and sharing in our centennial anniversary!

Andrew, one of our Sales Executives, shares his inspirations and hopes for Zojirushi as we go into the new year. Andrew was born in Japan and raised in the United States, enjoying both Japanese and American cultures, food and lifestyles. He began his career working in a Japanese restaurant, and through his exposure to Asian foods vendors, began to work in sales.

Andrew, you have such an interesting background. Tell us a bit about your career at Zojirushi.

I had always had an interest in sales. I wanted to sell products I had confidence in—and, now I do, because I work for Zojirushi, selling the finest quality small appliances in the industry. Zojirushi prides itself on bringing only the highest quality products to market. They also keep keen focus on what the consumer is looking for—for example, the new Stainless Mug (SM-TA36/48/60) has a smooth, rounded finish on the opening of the bottle so that it is more comfortable to drink out of and clean. It may be a small thing, but that’s the type of small detail that consumers really appreciate. I like being a part of that.

The Stainless Mug’s smooth and rounded bottle opening

Zojirushi has always cared about their customers, and our corporate slogan Inspirations from Everyday Life, reflects that. How do you see everyday inspirations in Zojirushi products?

Every new product we develop is inspired for everyday use. When a new rice cooker comes out there is always something new that was not on the previous model. For example, when the NS-LAC05 (3 cup capacity) was discontinued it was replaced by two models, the NS-LHC05 and the NS-LGC05. Although nearly identical in appearance and function, the NS-LHC05 and the NS-LGC05 have different settings, adapted to the different preferences of consumers. The NS-LHC05 has special porridge setting for making rice porridge and a jasmine rice setting geared towards some Asian consumers, while the NS-LGC05 has a steel cut oatmeal and long grain white rice setting created to capture the general market consumer. Paying attention to the needs of different types of customers is what keeps Zojirushi on top.

Our corporate philosophy is “Creating a Quality of Life for our customers. How do you believe your job at Zojirushi supports our customers?

We recently started a new project as a company, with a focus on incentive and corporate gifts, since a lot of companies like to give their employees or customers a gift with their company logo on it. Putting company logos on mugs and bottles is nothing new to the industry, but usually the bottles are cheap. Our product, on the other hand, is double or sometimes triple that dollar amount; but, with more customer awareness of the high quality of our brand, more inquiries are coming in—from small establishments like coffee shops, to big corporations like Google and Facebook. I am happy to see that more customers prefer quality over price.

The Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle (EA-BDC10)

Since you sell so many products for Zojirushi, you must have your own favorite! What do you like cooking?

I have fond memories of visiting Japan every summer as a kid. I think that it was there I first tried monjayaki, a traditional Japanese meal or snack that is cooked on a hot plate. Since then I have missed eating monjayaki but I’ve been able to enjoy it again thanks to the use of our Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle (EA-BDC10). And my wife made Paella using our griddle. She used fresh clams, shrimp and mussels, as well as chicken and sausage—it turned our great, and was very easy to make!

We’re grateful to Andrew for sharing his thoughts with us and wish you all a very happy holiday season!