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Belgium 16/06/2022

Steam peeling solutions that improve profitability and sustainability of potato processors

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Peeling potatoes on potato processing lines can be compared to throwing dollar bills from a bundle into the trash. Because mechanized peel removal also eliminates potato flesh, a high quantity of marketable raw material gets discarded, and for a business this means lost value and margin.

Minimizing food waste is one of the key objectives of today’s generation. Consumers, retailers, and processors are more worried about the origin of food and expect producers to adopt sustainable business practices. Luckily it is possible to prevent much of the product loss incurred during peeling.

Another sustainability concern is energy use in production and greenhouse gas emissions. By increasing the yield, companies can operate for a shorter time to obtain the same required output, therefore saving energy costs and water consumption.

The positive news is that automated solutions are capable of addressing such issues. 

Even though eliminating waste has always been good for business, this necessity becomes even more important because of the legislative and consumer-led changes facing the industry.

On one hand, demand for frozen potato products for foodservice is rising, meaning that there's a bigger pressure to boost volumes and throughputs, and more business for processors to win or lose. For example, the production capacity of frozen French fries in new regions is rapidly increasing every year, with each new processing line in Africa, China, and Brazil capable of delivering 150.000 tons annually.

Recently we have observed supply chain problems in North America resulting in shortages in Asia. Reducing food miles is another important challenge for the potato processing sector and challenges in logistics are discouraging suppliers from shipping frozen produce over long distances, meaning that new processing facilities are being constructed closer to retailers.

On the other hand, the consumer expectations of taste and quality worldwide are increasing. Purchasers become fussier about the quality of the products they buy, meaning that retailers also become less tolerant of product imperfections.

Thus, reaching high-quality potato products from locally cultivated raw materials becomes a priority. Innovation in potato seed led to producing more new varieties that are more resistant to climate change. This has helped improve the raw material consistency and quality delivered to processors, enabling them to improve their product quality. But this is not a complete solution. Technology and steam peeling solutions need to be able to extract the maximum possible benefit of the raw material.

To do so, food processors need to install new lines featuring the latest technical solutions, while aging lines will need to be replaced.

Nowadays, some 85% of the world's French Fries are processed by TOMRA machines, helping companies save millions of dollars in waste. 

The caustic peeling machines that were launched in the 1950s were eliminated up to 20% of the flesh. This was improved in the 1960s when TOMRA showcased steam peeling, minimizing potato loss to 13%. But still, there was room for improvement, and TOMRA has been committed to developing further innovations. 

In 1975, a high-pressure batch steam peeling was introduced to meet the needs of an increasing industry in North America which required higher throughput capacity to respond to the increasing demand. By 1980, TOMRA was supplying and installing over 80 percent of all the steam peelers in North America, a market share preserved until today.

Then in 1990, the Rapid Flash range of peelers was launched. Because requirements for greater steam pressure had added stress to existing supply systems, TOMRA developed wet steam accumulators to guarantee consistent steam supply at maximum pressure. These technologies reduced peel loss by another 2%.

In 2000, TOMRA presented the Orbit peeler which emerged from extensive testing of steam pressure, exhaust systems, and how different vessel shapes could contribute to minimization of peel loss on different potato varieties. To peel and process efficiently, it is necessary to manage every variation in raw materials that comes out of the fields. And the result of this research decreased peel loss by 2% more.

Until today, the industry was becoming more concerned about energy costs and the threat posed by greenhouse gas emissions. This is why the TOMRA Eco Steam Peeler (2012) introduced more sophisticated automation software to optimize steam usage and obtain equal throughput capacities with smaller vessels. This minimized peel loss to 6.5%.

TOMRA Peeling module

The TOMRA's latest innovation TOMRA Peeling Control Module also reduces steam use and energy consumption even further. This solution is being utilized today in many potato processing lines in Europe, North America, and Asia.

Thanks to changing the traditional process of fixed steam supply to a controlled steam management system, the Eco steam peeler consumes 25% less energy and 28% less steam than the machines of the same type. 

A new patented peeling vessel enables rapid heat transfer of the steam to the surface of each potato. This enables the processor to eliminate only the skin. The resulting energy efficiency saves from €60.000 to €100.000 per year.

Then the Eco peeler is followed by a Dry peel separation solution, which does not use water and brushes to remove the peeled skin in a centrifugal separation process. 

The Peeling Control Module (PCM) uses the TOMRA 5A sorter's multispectral imaging and a peel classifier. The PCM measures peel, calculates optimal steam time, and controls peeling quality, so that steam and energy use are reduced while the product is readied for cutting.


If you wish to obtain more information about the latest solutions by TOMRA, send your inquiry


Become Gold

Thanks to changing the traditional process of fixed steam supply to a controlled steam management system, the Eco steam peeler consumes 25% less energy and 28% less steam than the machines of the same type.
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