For more than 40 years, Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchen has supplied high-quality salads and side dishes, using only premium ingredients such as locally grown potatoes and fresh vegetables.

And, since its establishment, Mrs. Gerry’s has been growing steadily, undertaking nine expansions at its Albert Lea, Minn., headquarters production facility. The latest expansion, which includes the Orbit 350 steam peeling line from TOMRA Sorting Food, Austria, allowed them to expand its ready-to-eat refrigerated entrées.

Today, Mrs. Gerry’s salads and mashed potato products can be found in grocery stores, restaurants, universities, healthcare facilities and more nationwide.

“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,” says Chad Vogt, chief executive officer of Mrs. Gerry’s. “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 pounds of food each year. Mrs. Gerry’s operates from a 214,500-square-foot facility in Southern Minnesota and employs more than 200 people.”

Turning challenge into opportunity

As the company grows, Mrs. Gerry’s continues to face two challenges—first, keeping pace with the increasing steam capacity required to produce sufficient quantities of its products to meet demand, and secondly, running out of production capacity. Mrs. Gerry’s produces more than 120 different products, including its Original Potato Salad—the recipe that started it all in 1973.

“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 fulfil our requirements,” says Vogt.

TOMRA’s technical team visited the manufacturing facility to see first-hand the challenges and requirements. 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.

“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 OBD 6/20 brusher and M01 steam accumulator as part of our expansion plans,” adds Vogt.

Productivity into growth

“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,” adds Vogt. “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.

“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,” he adds. “The equipment is very user-friendly, and we are proud to be utilizing the latest technologies to increase efficiency and ensure every product has the highest quality, flavor and value for our customers.”