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New uses keep mushrooming at Giorgio Fresh

Officials at Giorgio Fresh have put the fun back in fungi by developing new value-added uses for mushrooms that are extending consumption far beyond the traditional steak topping and as an ingredient for fall stews and Thanksgiving stuffing.

One of the company’s newest creations is Savory Wild — a plant-based, healthy snacking solution in the on-trend jerky category. “We have seen an emerging trend of mushrooms as a snack,” said Bill Litvin, senior vice president, sales & marketing at Giorgio Fresh Co., based in Blandon, PA.

BLENDABELLA-Jar-ALL-on-Wood 2 Packaged in two-ounce bags, Savory Wild Portabella Jerky is available in Sesame, Ginger & Korean Chili; Roasted Garlic & Black Pepper; and Sweet Balsamic & Golden Fig varieties. All are made with hand-picked Portabella mushrooms that are marinated and then gently dried.

“Made with whole food ingredients — nothing artificial, no hydrogenated oils and no preservatives, Savory Wild is naturally gluten-free, low in calories and fat and packed with the antioxidant-rich mineral selenium,” Litvin said.

“People are looking for convenience and gourmet applications for entertaining, therefore stuffed mushrooms continue to be a popular item,” he added.

Giorgio Fresh has also added BLENDABELLA to its product roster.

“BLENDABELLA is a blend of diced Portabella mushrooms, vegetables and herbs that provides consumers with endless recipe options from quick appetizers to gourmet creations,” Litvin explained. “It is a very versatile item that can be added to eggs, tacos, on top of pasta, as salsa — the possibilities are endless.”

Products like these are helping to expand the usage of mushrooms.

“Mushrooms have become a year-round item due to their versatility and nutrition content,” Litvin said. “While they are still popular around the holidays, they are also packed with nutrients, making them popular post-holidays, as people try to get into a healthier routine. They are also popular in the summer and fall for grilling and tailgating.”

New uses are creating additional demand, Litvin said.

“We continue to see tremendous growth in organics and exotics at double-digit rates,” he said.

Mushrooms have an advantage over other field-grown produce items, like apples and corn, in that because they are grown in rooms they do not require the typical several years to transition to organic.

“Because we remove the contents of a room at the end of each crop, third-party organic certifying agencies do not require that a room remain chemical free for three years prior to being certified organic,” Litvin explained. “We clean out the room, document the post removal room cleaning and thus we can grow organically in the very next crop after informing our certifying agency of our intentions. We must continue using that room as an organic crop unless we are reducing the number of organic rooms. In other words, we should not switch which rooms are organic within a plant as a new crop begins,” Litvin said.

Giorgio Fresh is a favorite of many retailers and foodservice operators because it is known for working closely with its customers.

“Giorgio focuses on quality, service, innovation and consumer insights,” Litvin said. “Giorgio approaches each customer individually to understand their needs and objective, and then develops a customized program to drive sales and meet their objectives.”

Proper handling helps to extend the freshness and shelf life of mushrooms, Litvin noted.

“The shelf life of a mushroom is dependent on many factors,” he said. “First, is the mushroom harvested before the veil starts to loosen significantly? A mature but tight mushroom has a better shelf life than an over-mature, loose veiled one. Next, it is very important to get the mushrooms quickly into the cold chain starting with using refrigerated trucks and ending with vacuum cooling and shipping cooler. This should be followed by quick delivery to the buyer and proper handling at the buyer’s receiving dock, and then getting the mushrooms quickly into cold storage. Proper ordering by the buyer is important because you want mushrooms to move quickly from the store into consumers’ hands. This means sensible stock rotation as well,” he said.

Founded in 1928, when Pietro Giorgio built his first mushroom house in Temple, PA, Giorgio Fresh has grown into one of the world’s largest growers of mushrooms. In addition to its flagship Giorgio Fresh, the company’s brands include Modern Farms Mushrooms, Green Giant Fresh and Pennsylvania Dutchman — America’s Favorite Mushroom.