With the northern hemisphere entering the harvest season, pineapples, mangos and melons are consumed in large quantities. The Japanese peeler innovator Astra is again busy with orders from retail chains and small-scale factories with a need for fruit peeling. This month, the company is introducing the new peeler generation “KA-750PM” to its worldwide customers. This model has the same peeling performance, but is 10kg lighter and with more compact external dimensions. Ryo Takeshita, the sales manager at Astra shared this recent development.
“KA-750PM is 10kg lighter”
The majority of Astra’s peelers are sold overseas. “Our old model weighted around 30kg. Some customers decided not to purchase because of the high shipping cost brought by the heavy weight. To reduce the burden on customers, we innovated a new peeler model with lighter weight and smaller size,” Ryo said.
“The weight of the new model is 10kg less compared with the old one. The lighter weight resulted in a reduced production cost, meaning customers can have the machine at a cheaper price." When asked about the ‘trick’ behind it, Ryo explains, “simpler design is the answer. In the updated model, we’ve managed to reduce most of the stainless inside the unit, which reduces the overall weight of the peeler. You can say, we ‘dieted’ the machine and it worked.”
“This lighter and smaller machine functions just like the previous model, with the same capacity and yield rate. Some people may wonder how is it possible a smaller machine can still peel big sized fruit. It is all about the blade length. The main unit size doesn’t affect the size of the fruit to be peeled.”
“One supermarket just purchased a KA-750PM for pineapple peeling, replacing their old model. They mentioned that now as the machine is lighter and smaller, staff can carry it to the sink and clean it with running water, which is much more hygienic and convenient. But with the old model, staff could only wipe it clean on the table."
“We aim to help retailers boost their sales”
“As a peeler innovator, we aim to help retailers increase the productivity of peeling, while saving on their labor cost. Of course, we also want to help retailers improve their productivity, and boost their sales by presenting the beautifully peeled fruits to consumers.”
Ryo shared a story of his recent client from California, a supermarket that newly used KA-750 series for peeling mangoes. “Previously this supermarket had 4 people working 5 days/ week for 8 hours/day, which means 160 labor hours. After buying the KA-750PM, it was possible for them to peel the same number of mangoes with a 3-man team, working 5 days/week for 5.5 hours/day, which is only 82.5 labor hours. This is nearly 50% of the work week given back to redistribute labor or reduce labor costs. The cost of the machines was earned back in only 2 months.” Ryo said, “automatic peeling is more hygienic compared with manual peeling, which is especially important since the covid-19 pandemic made consumers more conscious of their health. The Astra peeling method gives more safety to the supermarkets.”
The story of this California supermarket is not an exception, Astra also received similar feedback from a Japanese supermarket who used KA-750 series for pineapples, with sales increased by 30%.
“Pineapples are not easy to be peeled by hand. For convenience some customers prefer to buy those cut ones regardless of the high price. Those ready-to-eat cut pineapples sold in supermarkets are often processed in factories, and then shipped to retail stores. But pre-peeled pineapple is quite perishable when kept on the shelf for a longer time or when the surrounding temperature changes during processing or in transport. Then the quality of the fruit deteriorates and the fruits easily rot. This not only results in food waste at the store, but may also lead to consumer complaints,” Ryo introduced, “Now some stores place the peeler next to the pineapple sales shelf. Customer can have the fruit peeled in store. The quick peeling performance and beautifully peeled fruit have attracted many customers at the store. It seems that our peeler is also used as a promotional tool for fruit sales,” Ryo laughs.
Astra- Innovative peeler developer
Non-stop innovation is the key of Astra’s business. “Only for our KA-750 series, we made 3 major improvements within 3 years’ time. The peeling yield rates increased by 2%, the blade usage period for a peeler is extended to 15 times longer, and the weight of the machine is now 10kg lighter.” Ryo said, “Our innovation leads to a shortened return-on-investment for clients, helps them to reduce waste, increases their productivity and boosts their sales.”
“Several major innovations are done in a short period of time, one may think innovation must be simple, as if you come up with an idea and spend 5 minutes turning it into practice. On contrary, we have a whole innovation team brainstorming everyday for a brilliant idea, and that is followed by countless times of testing, all to make one idea workable.”
“Of course, for testing we need to peel tons of fruits for a whole year and we had to eat so many fruits every day,” Ryo laughs, “but we still have to eat more, as we will never stop innovating.”
Astra has been granted several awards related to automatic peeling technologies, including the ‘Kitchen Innovations Award’ in 2018, ‘Touhoku New Business Award’ in 2019, and the ‘14th Nippon New Business Creation Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence’ in December 2019. “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.