With labor and food safety concerns more important than ever, more and more grocery retailers are looking to commissaries, central kitchens and other offsite facilities to provide their fresh-cut fruits and vegetables instead of handling those tasks in-store.
Japanese manufacturer Astra Inc., which has US headquarters in Torrance, California, has the perfect solution for commissaries and central kitchens looking to save time and labor.
Astra’s fruit-peeling machines peel the skin off fruits faster and “more beautifully” than hand peeling or ordinary peeling machines can, said Ryo Takeshita, sales manager. In a few months, he said, Astra’s peeling machines can pay for themselves in saved labor costs. “Our machines prevent juice dripping from fresh-cut fruit. The fruit looks better and the shelf life is longer,” he added. “And the yield rate is increased. In other words, it decreases food waste.”
Astra’s large, industrial peeler, the FAP-1001, is used in fresh-cut food commissaries and other large-scale facilities, like pie production plants and plants that produce value-added foods for hospitals, luxury ships, in-flight meals and other applications, Takeshita said.
Astra’s tabletop model, the KA-700H, is used in juice bars, cake shops, fruit stores, supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, school lunchrooms and more.
Astra got its start as a manufacturer of persimmon peeling machines. Japanese dried persimmon is deeply loved in Japan, and Astra has more than a 70% share of the persimmon peeling market, Takeshita said.
In 2015, the company decided to expand its business to include peeling machine for other fruits. Because persimmons are on the pricey side, Astra developed high-quality, high-speed equipment to peel the fruits. That translated well to other fruits.
“That high peeling quality was highly accepted by the market, especially for kiwi peeling,” he said. “By 2019, our product mix became 50/50, half persimmon peelers, half peelers for other fruits.”
Also in 2019, Astra introduced the KA-750, a peeler designed for pineapples, mangos and melons, a machine that Takeshita said will change Astra’s product mix in the near future.