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, Minnesota, the business places great emphasis on the quality of its raw materials – ensuring its products are fresh – and looks to exceed expectations. Since its establishment, Mrs. Gerry’s has been growing steadily and has undertaken nine expansions of its production facility. The latest expansion by the company, which includes the Orbit 350 steam peeling line from TOMRA Sorting Food, allowed them to expand its ‘Ready to Eat Refrigerated Entrees’. Today, Mrs. Gerry’s salads and mashed potato products are sold across the US and can be found in grocery stores, restaurants, universities, healthcare facilities and more.
Chad Vogt, CEO at Mrs. Gerry’s, 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. 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 operates from a 214,500 sq. ft. (20,000 sqm) 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: firstly, 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. More than 120 different products including its ‘Original Potato Salad’ – the recipe that started it all in 1973 – are now produced by the business.
“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.”
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 OBD 6/20 brusher and M01 steam accumulator, as part of our expansion plans.”
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. 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.”