The nutritional benefits are definitely a plus, he said, but also the consumer has come to percieve mushrooms as something they can add to dinners for something a little different.
Demand doesn’t seem to have any real peaks or valleys, said Harvey Mitchler, manager of sales and marketing for Abbotsford, British Columbia-based Champ’s Mushrooms.
“The availability of mushrooms year-round has helped grow the category. Other products are often in short supply or very expensive at times, whereas mushrooms are always available, and the price is fixed or steady.”
Signs of continued growth are apparent, said James Sweatt, sales director at Gonzales, Texas-based Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farms Inc.
“Everything is continuing to show a continued growth in the category,” he said. “We’re continuing to show a 4(% to) 6% growth.”
It’s difficult to pinpoint one cause of the category’s growth, but convenience is one of them, said Tom DeMott, chief operating officer at San Ramon, Calif.-based Encore Associates, which analyzes research data for the Mushroom Council.
“Certainly, sliced mushrooms are growing,” he said. “There’s a general trend of moving away from whole. No. 2, the crimini, or the brown, mushrooms are growing very well. They’ve been basically in double digits until this year, before flattening out.”
That demand has continued to grow through a sluggish economy is a positive sign, said Joe Caldwell, chairman of the council and vice president of Watsonville, Calif.-based Monterey Mushrooms Inc.
“Mushrooms’ demand maintained a pretty good solid track record throughout the economic downturn, more so in retail,” Caldwell said. “Foodservice took the big hit because people stopped eating out, but the people who stopped eating out were eating at home, and mushroom sales reflected that. We had 7% to 8% growth in the retail sector the last two years.”
A “repositioning” of mushrooms has proved effective in boosting sales in the category, said Gary Schroeder, director of Kennett Square-based Oakshire Mushroom Farm, which does business as Dole Mushrooms.
“I think it’s getting traction that mushrooms are a healthy item that have a lot of nutrition. That’s different from how they were positioned 10 years ago,” he said. “The vitamin D piece is very significant. We’re in the middle of a launch of some new vitamin D items and we’re really pleased with the response.”