Mushrooms are a hot item for foodservice, and many grower-shippers say a large part of their sales are to that sector.
To-Jo Fresh Mushrooms Inc.The 3-pound exotic blend box from To-Jo Fresh Mushrooms Inc., Avondale, Pa., is a popular foodservice item, says Peter Wilder, marketing director.“Foodservice is a growing part of our business,” said Joe Caldwell, vice president of Monterey Mushrooms Inc., Watsonville, Calif.
Foodservice business slipped for a few years when the recession began in 2007, he said.
But sales have been picking up steadily over the past couple of years, and the foodservice segment continues to be an important one for the industry, Caldwell said.
“We see most of the trends in mushroom eating and mushroom meals coming out of the foodservice sector,” he said.
Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farms Inc., Gonzales, Texas, has a good mix of retail and foodservice business, said Bill St. John, sales director.
He said he sees the same changes and trends taking place in both places.
For example, demand for crimini mushrooms — or baby portabellas — is up at foodservice just as it is at retail.
Approximately 30% of the business at Giorgio Fresh Co., Blandon, Pa., is with foodservice, said Bill Litvin, senior vice president of sales and national account manager.
“Giorgio is the go-to partner of foodservice distributors,” Litvin said. “We know what their customers want — consistent quality, great taste and variety.”
The company’s foodservice business has been “fairly stable,” he said.
While foodservice customers rely heavily on traditional products, he said there also is a “creative current in the restaurant trade that looks to try new things.”
Chefs are starting to think beyond sliced white mushrooms, said Peter Wilder, marketing director for To-Jo Mushrooms, Avondale, Pa.
All segments, including quick-service restaurants, fast casual and casual dining, “are starting to look for new opportunities to menu mushrooms in different dishes,” he said.
The company’s exotic blend, which includes portabella, shiitake and oyster mushrooms in a 3-pound box, is a popular foodservice item, he said.
“As we see the demand for calories and labeling on menus, mushrooms are a great way for chefs to offer flavorful dishes without increasing calories or fat,” Wilder said.
The popularity of mushrooms goes beyond restaurants.
Colleges, universities and non-commercial dining segments all are seeing more mushroom penetration, Wilder said.
“Students are asking for them.”
Mushrooms have reached more than 80% menu penetration, Wilder said, its highest rate ever.