The Mushroom Council, headquartered in San Jose, CA, said that mushroom demand increase is widely evident in shipments reaching record highs in 2012, and 2013 has shown an impressive start.
According to Bart Minor, president of the council, shipments have increased approximately 6 percent this year to date.
“If this impressive progress continues throughout the year, the mushroom industry will realize the greatest annual shipment increment in history,” said Minor.“Momentum continues to build for the mushroom industry, setting up another record-breaking year.”
Minor noted that the growth is apparent in menu mentions. This versatility prompts operators to serve mushrooms in virtually every cuisine throughout the year. Many chains are highlighting mushrooms on their limited-time-offer spring menus.
Laura Phelps, president of the American Mushroom Institute in Washington, DC, provided The Produce News with data from Datassential.
“The data concludes that 81 percent of all restaurant menus include mushrooms,” said Phelps. “Six percent of all savory items on the menu include mushrooms. Independent restaurants are the highest users. However chains are the fastest growing.”
The Mushroom Council continues to co-benefit and cross-promote with the Meatless Monday campaign.
“Mushrooms have long been a favorite for those following vegetarian and flexetarian diets, due to their meaty texture and umami flavor,” said Minor. “As Meatless Monday continues its grass roots momentum through all segments of the global food industry, mushrooms will continue to be highlighted as the star of meatless cuisine.”
The council’s inaugural Swap It or Top It summer promotion kicked off June 1. The contest, which offers a chance to win $5,000, challenges consumers to transform typical summer grilling recipes into healthier versions by adding mushrooms. In partnership with the Produce for Better Health Foundation and MyPlate, the contest will further heighten program awareness while drawing in consumers.
“As summer begins, consumers search for lighter fare and mushrooms are the nutritious and delicious addition to salads, summer grilling and light ethnic cuisine,” said Minor.
Phelps added, “On top of using mushrooms as a delicious addition to family meals, research has shown that mushrooms are now more than ever recognized by healthcare professionals as a nutritious necessity for a balanced, healthy diet.”
The council’s “swapping” program promotes swapping a portion of meat protein with finely chopped mushrooms before cooking. For example, swapping 50 percent of beef in a burger with fresh mushrooms can possibly reduce the intake of calories, fat and saturated fat.
“Sales of the 2011-12 U.S. mushroom crop totaled 900 million pounds, up 4 percent from the 2010-11 season,” said Phelps. “Value of sales for the 2011-12 U.S. mushroom crop is $1.10 billion, up 8 percent from the previous season.”
The Mushroom Council is also targeting school food programs with its Swapability campaign, and mushroom producers are also using the campaign to their advantage.
Paul Frederic, senior vice president of sales and marketing for To-Jo Mushrooms Inc. in Avondale, PA, said the company just introduced a new product using the Swapability theory.
“Our new ‘Bella Blended Meatballs’ reflect just that,” said Frederic. “We are partnering with Devault Foods, a national supplier of portion-controlled meat products for the foodservice industry.”
These are not ordinary store-bought meatballs. They are nutrient-dense, lower in cholesterol and fat, and are a healthy alternative to traditional meatballs.
“They are so good that they would compete with your ‘mama’s’ meatballs,” said Frederic. “Our focus with this product is on the foodservice side, and we believe that these could be great for school lunch programs.”
To-Jo is also focusing on its microwavable mushroom product that it introduced some time ago.
“We are getting more interest and so we are pushing the program,” said Frederic. “We have also introduced Bella Breaded Mushroom Bites for foodservice, which are available in several flavors. We partnered with Newly Wed’s Foods to produce this item.”
On the fresh side, To-Jo is promoting sliced whites for summer salads and mushrooms like Portabellas for grilling.
“And our mushroom blends are doing very well at both retail and foodservice,” said Frederic. “These blends of various mushrooms give consumers and diners a bit of flavor of numerous varieties, and are perfect in numerous applications.”
Giorgio Fresh, headquartered in Temple, PA, is pushing the nutritional value of mushrooms and increasing the health benefits with its vitamin D-enhanced products.
Bill Litvin, vice president of sales and national account manager, said that Giorgio is very excited about the vitamin D-enhanced products, as well as its “Fresh ‘n Clean” washed mushrooms.
“The vitamin D products provide 100 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin D,” said Litvin. “The Fresh ‘n Clean washed mushrooms are triple washed to present a cleaner sliced mushroom with a longer shelf life, better appearance and lower shrink.”
Giorgio is also launching a new line of stuffed Portabella mushrooms, adding more excitement to the category. There are three products in the line: Portabella caps stuffed with imitation crab; Portabella caps stuffed with parmesan cheese, artichokes and spinach; and Portabella caps stuffed with cheese and imitation bacon bits.
The item comes in an eight-ounce package with four mushroom caps, which can be prepared in eight minutes.
Litvin noted that there is an increasing interest in Baby Bella, Portabella, exotic and wild mushrooms.
“We are working in all areas to offer our customers a complete package,” he said. “Giorgio is committed to remaining on the cutting edge in offering the widest range of mushroom products possible.”
He also pointed out that foodservice operators are looking for ways to enhance their menus and to reduce their costs by utilizing mushrooms in conjunction with or in lieu of other protein items.
“The Mushroom Council’s Swapability or Blendability programs illustrate the benefits of using mushrooms to extend and enhance other products like ground beef, turkey and chicken,” said Litvin.
“Giorgio has an excellent team at our operation,” he continued. “Giorgio is committed to our customers, our employees and to the public.”
In addition to launching new products based on the growing demand, mushroom producers are also expanding internally to meet the growth.
Gourmet’s Finest, headquartered in Avondale, PA, announced plans to expand its Detroit facility to nearly twice its existing size.
Alan Kleinman, sales manager at Gourmet’s Finest, said that the expansion will give the company the opportunity to add more items for its expanding customer base.
“We are very excited and are looking forward to this expansion,” said Kleinman. “As part of the expansion we will be looking to add three vehicles to service our customers. We are very grateful to all our loyal customers and look forward to better service with expanded lines. And we are proud to be part of the Detroit rebirth.”
He added that Gourmet’s Finest contributes its growth throughout the U.S. to serving more cities with overnight deliveries.
“We are accomplishing this more than ever before,” said Kleinman. “We are also proud to be the official distributor for 5 Star Farms. We are shipping the company’s peeled onions and shallots along with our fresh spinach and arugula.”
Gourmet’s Finest also announced that David Ranscht has been promoted to national sales manager.
“David will continue to be a driving force for our company,” said Kleinman.
Country Fresh Mushroom Co., headquartered in Toughkenamon, PA, also announced staff changes. Kirk Wilson was recently hired as regional sales manager.
“Kirk brings a great deal of expertise and experience to Country Fresh,” said Bob Besix, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the company. “He spent six years working in the mushroom industry at Highline Mushroom in Ontario, Canada.”
Wilson, he added, is well known within the mushroom industry.
“The addition of Kirk will better service the Southeastern market area,” said Besix.