Once again, the U.S. mushroom industry conducted a successful pink till campaign to benefit the City of Hope cancer research center and hospital in Duarte, Calif.

Fourteen of the nation’s mushroom grower-shippers packed mushrooms in pink tills from mid-September through mid-November, and the San Jose, Calif.-based Mushroom Council donated $50,000 to the City of Hope.

Mushroom Council figures show that tonnage grew by 1.3% during the four-week period ending Nov. 7, when the campaign was under way, and sales rose 2.4%.

“The campaign is a wonderful promotion that works on a couple of levels,” said Gary Schroeder, director of Dole Mushrooms and president of Oakshire Mushroom Farm Inc., Kennett Square, Pa., which markets the Dole product.

For one thing, it’s a good way to continue the long-term repositioning of mushrooms, which used to be thought of as something that tasted good but had little nutritional value because they’re so low in calories, he said.

“In fact, (mushrooms are) a nutritional powerhouse,” he said. “The pink till is a way to communicate that.”

The program was so successful that some retailers say they’d like to see it extended throughout the year, said Joe Caldwell, vice president at Monterey Mushrooms Inc., Watsonville, Calif.

More retailers participated in 2010 than in 2009 — even with private-label mushrooms — he said. And many ran “pink” promotions in their stores.

“That really helped,” Caldwell said.

The Mushroom Council has been donating money to help fight breast cancer for more than 10 years, he said.

“That’s a cause everyone can get behind,” said Fred Recchiuti, general manager at Basciani Mushroom Farms, Avondale, Pa.

Besides supporting a worthwhile cause, the promotion had a big effect on sales for the company.

“We saw about a 15% volume increase,” Recchiuti said.

Many companies conduct “pink” campaigns during October, Schroeder said, but few of their products have a beneficial effect for breast cancer like mushrooms do.

“The City of Hope, which we donated to, has incredible (data) about the positive effect of mushrooms and compounds in mushrooms, and what they will do to reduce risk of getting cancer and maybe (provide) positive effects for those who are battling it,” he said. “That’s astonishing.”