Kevin Donovan, national sales manager for Phillips Mushroom Farms in Kennett Square, PA, told The Produce News that the company was looking forward to the upcoming Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in New Orleans, Oct. 18-20.
“We will be exhibiting at booth number 4639, and we’ll be demonstrating our new Phillips Gourmet Fire Roasted Frozen Mushroom product,” said Donovan. “The fire roasted flavor and texture of this product matches that of fresh mushrooms.”
He explained that there is a somewhat significant shortage in the marketplace for this type of product, and that the company anticipates hearing from potential customers who are in need of filling this gap.
Phillips Mushroom Farms offers a full line of all of the conventional popular, gourmet and exotic mushrooms. It also offers an extensive organic line consisting of white mushrooms, browns, such as Portabella and Baby Bella, and specialty mushrooms including Shiitake, Maitake, Beech, Pom Pom and Royal Trumpet varieties.
The company has produced an organic line for over 12 years, and Donovan said it is experiencing a dramatic increase in the demand for organics.
“We also offer combo packs of conventional and organic specialty and brown mushrooms,” said Donovan. “These combo packs provide different textures and flavors, but they go well together and are great in many recipes.”
Donovan explained that the mushroom category is not impacted by the locally grown trend because mushrooms are produced in only a few places in the United States, and the Kennett Square area produces over 60 percent of the nation’s supply.
The mushroom industry in this region evolved from emigrants, particularly from Italy, in the late 1800s. At that time, about one third of the nation’s population lived within around three hours from Kennett Square.
“This created a great opportunity for mushroom producers because there was not yet refrigeration,” explained Donovan. “Phillips Mushroom Farms has evolved in major ways since it was founded in 1927.”
Earlier this year, the company completed a major expansion project at its Warwick, MD, facility. The facility has been in operation for over three years, and it was expanded once before the recent project.
“We enlarged the facility to approximately 500,000 square feet of growing space,” said Donovan. “Every room in the cutting-edge facility is climate controlled by computers, and each room is harvested multiple times a day, 24-hours a day, so mushrooms are always picked at their optimum size. The new facility is Mushroom Good Agricultural Practices and Safe Quality Foods certified, and it is 20 percent more energy efficient.”
Phillips Mushroom Farms also engaged in another major initiative in its packaging by moving a lot of its products into recycled polyethylene terephthalate, commonly referred to as RPET trays.
“These plastic trays have already been recycled once, and can be again when the product is used,” Donovan added. “They are covered and sealed with clear film. Just like organics and sustainability, environmental issues are in the forefront of everyone’s mind today, and it’s important to us at Phillips Mushroom Farms to do whatever we can to contribute to a higher level of environmental consciousness.”
Besides focusing on its new frozen fire roasted item, the company is also keenly aware of the highly successful mushroom “Swap It or Top It” promotional campaign that the Mushroom Council launched.
“We are conferring with nutritionists that work for retailers and letting them know about the nutritional and health benefits of replacing a portion of protein with mushrooms,” said Donovan. “They in turn can put the information in their company newsletters and emails.”
Donovan noted that a sizeable mushroom producer, California Mushroom Farm in Ventura, CA, closed in early September.
“That and one other mushroom producer has closed in the past year,” he said. “California Mushroom Farm produced about 20 million pounds of mushrooms per week. We expect to hear from some people who will be looking to fill the gap that this shortage will cause, and we’ll be responsive in any way possible.”