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Innovative ways to maximize mushroom sales

Mushroom demand continues to increase, thanks in great part to the Mushroom Council’s The Blend project, said Kevin M. Delaney, vice president of sales and marketing for To-Jo Mushroom Inc., in Avondale, PA.

“Since The Blend made headlines a few years ago, the primary focus and demand has been coming from the foodservice side,” added Delaney. “Now, we have interest building in retail as well. Having the demand from both segments is creating more opportunities for us to partner and innovate with ground beef manufacturers.”mushroom-chop-packaging

In the meantime, demand from foodservice operators and school systems remain the lead driver, with retailers beginning to experiment with the concept of blended products.

“At To-Jo, we have been working closely with the beef industry to find innovative ways to maximize flavor and efficiencies during production,” explained Delaney. “Our processing division produces quick blanched mushrooms that work very well in the ground beef processing environment. This product allows us to keep the microbial count down while offering extended shelf life.”

To-Jo’s core items are white and Baby Bella mushrooms in 8- and 16-ounce tills. Delaney said that from a growth standpoint, the company is seeing a lot of success with specialty varieties in blended packs.

“It’s a great way to introduce new varieties to consumers,” he pointed out.

To-Jo’s certified organic farms use a simplified natural approach to produce mushrooms that customers trust. It is USDA Organic Certified, offers both retail and bulk organic packaging, and it provides market analysis.

“Deciding whether or not to offer organic mushrooms depends on a producer’s market and its customers,” explained Delaney. “The organic market has continued to grow, but it’s not a great fit everywhere. For example, if total organic sales make up more than 15 percent of your total produce sales, than organic mushrooms will perform well. If your total organic sales are less than 15 percent, organic mushrooms will just drive up shrink.”

Like most others in fresh fruit and vegetable categories, increasing labor costs continue to create challenges in the mushroom industry. To-Jo Mushrooms focuses strongly on finding greater internal efficiencies to offset these growing costs.

At To-Jo Mushrooms’ exhibition booth at the PMA Fresh Summit, the company’s representatives will be showcasing its newest product, the Mushroom Chop.

“We are very excited about this product and the opportunities it will create for retailers to cross-merchandise mushrooms with beef,” noted Delaney.