The mushroom industry says it can tell its story in chapters.
- Chapter 1: Nutrition;
- Chapter 2: Specialties to suit a variety of tastes;
- Chapter 3: Growing popularity; and
- Chapter 4: Convenience.
The list, marketing agents say, goes on like an encyclopedia.
For whatever reason, consumers are responding, according to the San Jose, Calif.-based Mushroom Council, which released sales numbers from 2010.
A few of the numbers:
- 2010 marks the third year of sustained growth;
- 3.6% jump in annual sales;
- 3% growth in anumber of pounds sold; and
- Fresh mushrooms outperformed the produce category at large in annual sales growth.
The council said fresh mushrooms outperformed produce retail sales as a whole in terms of both dollars and pounds sold, according to data from FreshLook Marketing for the period ending Jan. 2. Over the past year, the produce category as a whole experienced a 3.3% increase in dollar sales and a 1.6% increase in volume sold, while mushrooms grew at a larger pace, registering a 3.6% increase in dollar sales and a 3.0% increase in volume sold.
That translated to $810 million in annual sales and 200 million pounds sold — the third straight year of mushroom sales increases in retail stores, following a 1.3% sales increase in pounds in 2008 and a 7.7% increase in pounds sold in 2009.
Bart Minor, Mushroom Council president and chief executive officer, said many factors contributed to the sales increases.
“Everything is lining up. It’s not any single meal occasion or cuisine or environmental or social benefit. It’s all of them,” Minor said. “We seem to line up with every single trend right now, like weight management, vitamin D deficiency, the aging population looking for that fountain of youth.”
At a micro level, sales of white button mushrooms grew by 2.3% in sales and 2.9% in pounds sold. Brown mushrooms increased by 5.8% in sales and 3.1% in pounds sold. Specialty mushroom sales rose by 9.3% in sales and 4.6% in pounds sold.
“The reason mushrooms are so popular, I think, is driven a lot by Americans’ interest in the Food Network and foodies —sort of the health factor,” said Fred Recchiuti, marketing director at Avondale, Pa.-based Basciani Mushroom Farms.
Health and utility are drivers of sales, said Kevin Donovan, sales manager at Kennett Square, Pa.-based Phillips Mushroom Farms.