As demand for convenient food solutions continues to surge, more retailers are beefing up their fresh-cut produce offerings to meet their consumers’ needs for foods that are not only to easy to prepare and eat, but also good for them.

Japanese manufacturer Astra Inc., which has US headquarters in Torrance, Calif., is seeing a trend, said Ryo Takeshita, sales manager — customers who try the company’s fruit peelers like them so much, they become repeat customers.

A New Zealand fresh-cut factory that supplies produce for supermarkets, for instance, recently bought Astra’s commercial model FAP-1001. They loved it so much, they decided to buy several more units for multiple locations, Takeshita said.

Another example: a large mango processer in the US bought the Astra KA-730 mango peeler and, within a few months, had purchased several more units.

“This continuous order/ additional purchase pattern is happening all over the world — from France and Germany to Guatemala and Colombia,” Takeshita said.

Next up for Astra are peelers for large grapefruits and pomelos.

“The tech is 80% completed, we’re in the final step,” Takeshita said. “All we have to do is the preparation of marketing materials. Fruits with thick skin, especially thick-skinned citrus, is very difficult to peel with a machine, but Astra overcame this technical barrier.”

Retailers and other users have long struggled to find efficient ways of peeling grapefruits and pomelos — Takeshita said Astra gets requests for automatic peelers for those fruits all the time.

“We’re really looking forward to helping them,” he said. “Our innovation will not only cater to the existing need, but also set a new standard in the fruit peeling industry.”

The consumption of fresh-cut fruit is growing all the time, in all corners of the world, Takeshita said.

Most customers still buy un-peeled fruit and peel it themselves. Soon, however, he expects “common sense” to take over and cause more and more people to see the advantage of switching to automatic peelers like those made by Astra.

“Fruit peeled by Astra peelers look good, and it extends freshness and minimalize waste. Our technology not only reduces labor costs but also elevates the quality of fresh-cut fruits, aligning with consumer expectations and industry demands.”

ASTRA machines fit in kitchen of all sizes, including back-of-the-store departments at grocery retail, Takeshita said.

Most peelers use a round-type peeling unit, which is easy to manufacture, but slows cutting yields. In addition, peeled surfaces are bumpier, and more juice is lost in the process.

Astra’s peelers use a peeling blade, a method that more closely replicates a person hand-peeling a piece of fruit. The blade method, Takeshita said, makes the peeling speed faster and the surface more beautiful, and there’s a higher yield rate and less chance of juice dripping.

This article is an excerpt from the January 2024 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire Fresh-cut Produce feature and more in the digital edition here.