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NASS crop report confirms mushroom demand continues to grow

The value of domestic mushroom production topped $1 billion for the fourth year in a row, according to a recently issued U.S. Department of Agriculture report. The 899 million-pound crop from 2013-14 broke last year's record value by $12 million.

The strong demand for mushrooms increased the value of the Agaricus crop to $1.05 billion from more than 882 million pounds sold. Pennsylvania accounted for 65 percent of the total volume of sales and second-ranked California contributed 12 percent.

Brown mushrooms, including Portabella and Crimini varieties, accounted for 152 million pounds, up slightly from last season. Brown mushrooms accounted for 17 percent of the total Agaricus volume sold and 22 percent of the total Agaricus value.

Production of 65.7 million pounds of specialty mushrooms, including varieties such as Shitake and Oyster, added $65.7 million in value.

During the 12- month reporting period, several large farms closed, decreasing the total number of Agaricus growers in the United States to 103. Another indication of production consolidation is that growers with sales exceeding 10 million pounds accounted for 77 percent of all Agaricus sales.

The data are from the annual National Agricultural Statistics Service production report, which was released Aug. 20. This demand growth is reflected in mushroom retail sales for the same time period.

Over the same 12-month period of the NASS data, the mushroom category grew 3.1 percent, adding nearly $33 million in incremental retail sales. Brown mushrooms had an enormous impact on the category, growing 7.7 percent and contributing an additional $24 million to the category. Organic mushrooms are the fastest-growing segment, up 40 percent in dollars. They comprised nearly 6 percent of the category for this period.

"Increased demand will lead to an increase in the price for mushrooms," American Mushroom Institute President Laura Phelps said in a press release. "Growers and shippers continue to face challenges of higher production costs, including raw materials, wages and energy. There are still gaps left by the closure of large farms. With tight supply, prices should be moving up to meet demand."

Timothy Richards, an agriculture economist for the mushroom industry, noted that "mushroom demand remains strong; our forecast is that demand is predicted to grow at least 2.5 percent, while domestic production is forecasted to grow at around 2 percent. This obviously will put upward pressure on price. Retail sales are expected to grow around 3-4 percent per year, and while the Blend Trend is still just getting started, even a small increase in foodservice/processed mushroom demand can have a significant impact on the bottom-end of mushroom pricing, which then trickles up the product line."  

Mushroom Council marketing programs promoting mushroom blendability, the culinary technique of blending fresh mushrooms with ground meat to maintain flavor and texture while reducing calories and fat, has opened up an entirely new market for mushroom sales resulting in increased demand.

"Blendability is creating interest in mushrooms which has increased more home cooks to explore mushrooms," Mushroom Council President Bart Minor added in the press release. "The buzz around blendability is contributing to overall mushroom demand. Blendability is currently being quickly adopted in foodservice outlets both commercially in restaurant chains like Seasons 52 and Macaroni Grill and non-commercially, most notably in the National School Lunch Program. The continued growth of mushroom blendability in foodservice has not only increased foodservice sales but increased overall demand for mushrooms."

The NASS report shows a price increase of 10 percent for mushrooms sold for the processed market -- a clear sign of more widespread foodservice use for items such as burger toppings and meat blends.