Summer can be a great time for mushroom sales, grower-shippers say.

Mushrooms popular summer fare(Photo courtesy Gourmet Mushroom Inc.)

At Avondale, Pa.-based To-Jo Mushrooms, marketing director Peter Wilder said the company sees “a nice lift” in the portabella category during the warm-weather months as consumers fire up their outdoor grills.

Wilder said he’s seen a slight increase in pricing for the mushroom for the past two quarters, as well.

“Demand is up for mushrooms,” he said.

“The Mushroom Council is doing a wonderful job of engaging with consumers about the benefits of mushrooms from a health perspective and a flavor perspective.”

Mushroom media mentions are at an all-time high, he added.

“The outreach is working.”

The specialties segment also has experienced increases as demand for healthful items increases, Wilder said.

“Summer is a great time for grilling mushrooms,” agreed Bill Litvin, senior vice president of sales and national account manager for Giorgio Fresh Co., Blandon, Pa.

“Our customers take advantage of the warm season by throwing a variety of mushrooms on the grill or adding them to their favorite kabobs,” he said.

Summer sales usually are “not too bad,” said Fletcher Street, director of marketing and sales for Ostrom Mushroom Farms, Olympia, Wash.

Business tends to picks up after a relatively slow period in April and May.

“In general, over the last year, mushroom business has been pretty strong,” she said.

She said sales were a bit slower than usual as summer kicked off — probably throughout the industry.

She agreed that good publicity about the nutrition, taste and versatility of mushrooms seems to fit the healthful lifestyles many consumers are adopting.

“People are discovering (mushrooms) as a culinary item more than ever,” she said. “We’re all reaping the benefit of that.”

The blendability concept where mushrooms are substituted for meat also is helping, she said.

Ostrom Mushroom Farms’ offerings include white crimini mushrooms and portabellas, and the company also buys organic shiitake and oyster mushrooms from family farms in Oregon.

For Watsonville, Calif.-based Monterey Mushrooms Inc., summer business is OK, but it tends to be down from some other times of the year because of competition from local fresh fruits and vegetables, said Joe Caldwell, vice president.

“You have a lot of (local products) available for options,” he said.

Even in the mushroom category itself, consumers seem to change their eating pattern in summer, picking up more portabellas for grilling, Caldwell said.

Monterey Mushrooms converts some of its production from white mushrooms to browns during the summer to accommodate that shift in demand.

“Overall, it’s been a pretty good summer to get started with,” Caldwell said.

Spring — May and June in particular — is an exciting time for Ponderosa Mushrooms & Specialty Foods, Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, said president Joe Salvo.

That’s because that’s the time the company, which specializes in wild-harvested varieties, kicks off the new varieties that chefs and retailers have been waiting for, he said.

It’s also when the chanterelles start arriving from Europe.

Business slows a bit in July and August because there’s “not much new happening,” he said.

But sales go back into high gear in September when the weather cools and fall rains start.

That’s the time of year when the North American chanterelles are ready for harvest and the lobster mushrooms start, along with the pine mushroom, if the weather is right and all goes according to plan.

Those three varieties should be available until Christmas, and some other specialty varieties also might come along, like cauliflower mushrooms, Salvo said.

The high-value specialty category is continually growing, he said, and starting to get some attention from retailers across the country.

“They finally have realized that there is a clientele that is willing to pay and is looking for specialty, wild-harvested mushrooms,” Salvo said.

“They can add a lot of sales and gross margin for those retailers that handle them properly.”