With the new pineapple season in the northern hemisphere coming soon, the Japanese peeling machine innovator Astra is again busy with orders from retail chains and small-scale factories that need pineapple peelers. This year, the company is bringing the new pineapple peeler generation “KA-751”to its worldwide customers. Ryo Takeshita, the sales manager at Astra shared his thoughts on this recent development.
“Consumers can get freshly peeled pineapple for a lower price”
Ryo first told the 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. Such ready-to-eat packages are often processed in 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 consumers can easily eat freshly peeled pineapple for a lower price. That is why we launched a pineapple peeling machine series 3 years ago.”
“Blade usage period is around 15 times longer”
Once Astra’s pineapple peeler was introduced to the market, it immediately received strong demand from all over the world. “The round-peeling unit, which scrapes off the pineapple surface, has been the mainstream peeling method, so our new blade peeling technique is quite astonishing in the sector. We had strong demand and great feedback from satisfied customers. But as an innovative company, how to perfect the machine is always in our mind. This year, we are bringing the KA-751 model to the market.”
One of the biggest improvement is its blade. “For our previous unit, KA-750 , customers have to sharpen the blade by themselves after 1,000-3,000 peelings. Though we always include a sharpening stone in the machine package, the problem is sharpening is not an easy task. We sometimes hear the customer say that they damaged the blade while sharpening, and have to order a complete new blade from us. With the new KA-751 model, the machine is workable for up to 10,000-20,000 times peelings before changing the blade. The usage period is almost 15 times longer than the previous version, without sharpening. Nevertheless, the sales price per machine remains the same, which means our customers’ return-in-investment period will be even shorter.”
Then Ryo explained the technique behind this innovation. “For larger fruits such as pineapple, a long peeling blade is required. Usually, the longer the blade is, the easier its surface becomes wavy. Earlier, we used heavyweight metal for our previous model KA-750. Although the heavyweight is stable, such material is quite expensive, and requires sharpening periodically. We had some struggles in finding a new way to have the blade made from lightweight metal without any wavy surface, and with an affordable price. And here we are with KA-751! The reason why we can have the price per peeler remaining low is that the new blade is cast made, meaning the fee for assembling them is saved. However, the designing concept of the machine becomes more sophisticated, which requires a good integration with the machine programming, but that is our responsibility and there is no need for customers to worry about this.”
Better performance with less waste
“What differences customers can feel during usage is the better peeling performance with less waste. The yield rate of KA-751 is 62%, which is 2% more than the old model. The yield rate is (After-peeled pineapple) / (Whole Pineapple). The yield rate of hand peeling is around 50%, and the yield rate of a round-peeling unit is around 40-45%. With a better integration with programing and an improved blade, the KA-751 machine is able to peel pineapples to a barrel shape, and thus achieve around 60% yield rate.”
“Besides peeling pineapples, customers can also order our optional parts such as melon kits and mango kits to make the machine also suitable for additional types of fruit. Thankfully our orders are increasing, so we are able to lower the price. For KA-751, the price of the optional parts is only 85% of the previous KA-750 model.”
Astra has done several field tests in Japan. “Now, most of the fresh-cut pineapples sold in the Fukushima region are peeled by Astra KA-751, and the reaction is extremely good. We have already received 100+ unit orders from the users.”
“We have eaten tons of pineapples”
Astra has spent a whole year developing and testing the KA-751 before it launched onto the market. “Blades can be made from thousands of materials, also the degree and the speed of the blade have infinite combinations. We have to test countless combinations of each factor against many kinds of fruits, from soft to hard, and from small to large before we found an ideal one.”
“For testing, we peeled tons of pineapples, and for a whole year, we had to eat so many pineapples every day,” Ryo laughs, “but we still have to eat more, as we would not stop innovation.”
Over the past 20 years, ASTRA has been fully dedicated to automatic peeler innovation. Aside from the KA-751 pineapple peeler, Astra has a series of peeling machines including the KA-700H for oranges, apples and kiwis.