TOMRA Sorting Food’s Steam Peeling Line has been chosen by Mrs Gerry’s Kitchen as part of its latest expansion.
For more than 40 years, Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchen has supplied high-quality salads and side dishes using only premium ingredients, including locally grown potatoes and fresh vegetables. Based in Albert Lea in Minnesota, the business places great emphasis on the quality of its raw materials, ensuring its products are fresh.
Since its establishment, Mrs. Gerry’s has been growing steadily and has undertaken nine expansions of its US production facility. The latest expansion included the Orbit 350 steam peeling line from TOMRA Sorting Food, which allowed the company to expand its ready-to-eat refrigerated entrees range.
Mrs. Gerry’s salads and mashed potato products are sold across the US and can be found in retail outlets such as grocery stores, restaurants, universities, and healthcare facilities.
Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchen’s chief executive officer (CEO) Chad Vogt says: "Our company started in my mother’s kitchen, with her parents being the first two employees and it is still family-owned and operated more than 40 years later. It was my father who ran a small distribution truck that needed salads to complement the meat items he sold, so he approached my mother with the idea of making potato salads, macaroni salads, and coleslaw for him and it blossomed from there.
"Our mission is to provide superior and consistently safe products built on a strong foundation of faith, family, and quality, while providing our customers with the highest levels of service. Over the past 43 years, our company has expanded in numerous ways and now sells more than 35 million lbs (15.9 million kg) of food each year. Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchen operates from a 214,500ft² (20,000m²) facility in Southern Minnesota and employs more than 200 people."
Challenge into opportunity
Mrs. Gerry’s has faced two challenges as the company has grown, keeping pace with the increasing steam capacity required to produce sufficient quantities of its products to meet demand, and running out of production capacity. More than 120 different products including its Original Potato Salad are now produced by the business.
Chad says: "We spent six months researching various peeling solutions for our processing line and toured manufacturing facilities to evaluate steam consumption data before choosing TOMRA’s machines to fulfill our requirements."
TOMRA’s technical team visited the manufacturing facility in Albert Lea to see first-hand the challenges and requirements of the customer. Following a process audit and an efficiency test of the existing solution, it became clear that peeling efficiency, steam supply and consumption could be improved.
Chad adds: "We are very familiar with the innovative solutions manufactured by TOMRA as we have been using their steam peeling machines since 2001 and we recently purchased TOMRA’s Orbit 350 peeler with on-board diagnostics (OBD) 6/20 brusher and M01 steam accumulator as part of our expansion plans."
Productivity into growth
Chad continued: "The Orbit peeler is able to process large quantities of produce with a shorter cycle time, while also reducing steam usage, which has led to significant increases in productivity and the reduction of energy costs. We know that we are now using less steam than before and the machine also provides improvements in the uniformity of peeling, which can help to reduce waste."
The Orbit peeler uses innovative technology to carefully monitor and send information to the machine’s control panel, ensuring the lowest steam times and the reduction of peel loss to minimal levels.
Chad adds: "Shorter cycle times and increased productivity give us the opportunity to focus on continuing to grow our existing business and securing new customers through the development of new product ranges, while maintaining our reputation for high-quality products and remaining profitable.
"The equipment is very user-friendly and we are proud to be utilising the latest technologies to increase efficiency and ensure every product has the highest quality, flavour and value for our customers."