Japan has long been the second-largest export market for Taiwanese pineapples just after mainland China. The General Administration Customs China (GACC) announced that the pineapple imports from Taiwan had been temporarily halted since 1st March. Taiwanese traders had to shift the volume for mainland China to the Japanese market. Japanese supermarkets and retail chains received an unprecedented volume of Taiwanese pineapples, and this created great opportunities for Astra, the Japanese pineapple peeler innovator. Ryo Takeshita, the sales manager at Astra shared his recent experiences.
We benefited from the temporary prohibition
“In these last few weeks, we have seen large volumes of Taiwanese Golden Diamond pineapples sold in local supermarkets. This brings us a big advantage.” Ryo said, “unlike MD2 and other varieties, the core of the Gold Diamond pineapple is very soft and thus edible. As the Astra machine is not equipped with a de-coring system, it offers a perfect solution for peeling Golden Diamond pineapples.”
After huge volumes of Taiwanese pineapples arrived in Japan, all at once, Astra received many new orders from their old and new clients, asking for more units of pineapple peelers. Not only in Japan, the company’s sales in Taiwan were also boosted as Taiwanese consumers consumed more pineapples too. Even a well-known Taiwanese supermarket started to use the machine.
Perfect for fruit retail sector
Ryo told a story of how the pineapple peelers were developed. “We often see that ready-to-eat pineapples are sold in small sealed packages in supermarkets. Although they are multiple times more expensive than fresh raw fruits, still consumers buy them because pineapples are not easy to peel at home.” Ryo said.
“Such ready-to-eat packages are often processed in processing factories, and then shipped to retail stores. But the problem is, the pineapple is quite perishable. When kept on the shelf for a longer time, or when the surrounding temperature changes during processing or in transport, the quality of the cut fruits deteriorates and the fruits easily rot. This not only results in food waste at the retail store, but may also lead to consumer complaints.”
“As a peeler innovator, we started to think how we can provide an easier solution, so that retail consumers can easily eat freshly peeled pineapple for a lower price. With this idea, we innovated the ‘Daisuke’ model, especially for pineapple peeling. The machine is very small and does not take too much space. You can easily place a unit anywhere in the store. Customers can peel the pineapple immediately at the store.”
Minimize waste during processing
“At the moment, the cut pineapples you see in the supermarkets are peeled in large-scale processing factories. The method of batch processing the whole core with a tubular cutter device is the mainstream method. But this results in very high levels of waste.
Ryo explains, “There are some large-scale processing machines we see that use a “round-peeling unit”. This peeling unit cuts out small circular pieces around the edge while turning. This results in a very rough peeling surface and thus leads to juice dripping.”
“To solve this issue, we implemented a turning blade peeler for the ‘Daisuke’ model. The principle shares similarities with manual peeling. The blade is straight, sharp and thin. When turning, the blade moves around the pineapple in a polygonal way, while always tightly pressed to the surface of the fruit. Waste can be reduced by up to 1/3. In addition, this peeling method results in a smoother surface, the fruit has a longer shelf life, and can keep fresh for a longer period.”
New updated pineapple peeling machine coming soon
To answer the demands from our customers, Astra decided to launch a new pineapple peeling machine “KA-725” this summer. "This new machine is specialized for use in the supermarket. The peeling quality is better, and the peeled skin will be gathered into one box so it is much easier to clean. Also, this model is easier to move and store compared to our recent models. Stay tuned, there is more to come.” Ryo said.
Astra, the peeler innovator
ASTRA is one of the very few companies who can manufacture peeling machines using this technology. “Peeling seems a simple performance, but it is the combination and balance of many elements such as the material of the blade (the metal used for pineapple blades can only be produced in Japan), the shape of the peeler, the way it touches the fruit and the way it moves and speed control, etc. - all these factors play a role, and interact with each other. The technological improvement behind the blade peeler is more than a simple change of the form of the blade.”
Over the past 20 years, ASTRA has been fully dedicated to automatic peeler innovation. Aside from the ‘Daisuke’ pineapple peeler, Astra has a series of fruit peeling machines, including the KA-700H model for orange, apples and kiwis, as well as the KA-750 model for peeling melons and mangos. The company has received several awards related to automatic peeling technologies. “All the patents and awards are in recognition of our sincere efforts in innovation. We are proud to say that all of these technologies were born out of countless failures and ideas that were put into storage.” Ryo said.