A number of mushroom grower-shippers are making significant strides toward sustainable and recyclable packaging.
Ostrom Mushroom Farms, Olympia, Wash., has moved away from foam and plastic containers and switched to recyclable ones, said Fletcher Street, director of marketing and sales.
Most of the company’s packaging now is made from 100% recycled material, she said.
Most of the containers are made of paper, and the company is working to develop a paper tray for portabella caps and sliced portabellas, as well, she said.
Demand seems to be growing for larger pack sizes and sustainable packaging, said Joe Caldwell, vice president, Monterey Mushrooms Inc., Watsonville, Calif.
He estimated that about 80% of the firm’s mushrooms come in natural, sustainable packages.
“Consumer feedback is really good,” he said.
The 8-ounce package of whole and sliced mushrooms is the company’s bestselling package, he said. But the past several years, the company has seen larger packages take more and more market share.
“Consumers who are shopping and finding more of a value with the larger packages have made that part of their shopping pattern now,” he said.
Monterey Mushrooms’ largest size is a 40-ounce package for club stores, but many large mainstream retailers are asking for a 24-ounce package, and almost all now carry a 1-pound pack in addition to the 8-ounce size, Caldwell said.
Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farms Inc., Gonzales, Texas, is taking advantage of increased demand for portabella mushrooms during the summer by offering larger pack sizes, said Bill St. John, sales director.
In the past, the company offered only 6- or 8-ounce sizes, but now Kitchen Pride can offer 14- or 18-ounce packages, as well.
Although bulk mushrooms are popular in supermarkets on the coasts, Midwest shoppers tend to prefer packaged mushrooms, he said.
Champ’s Mushrooms, Aldergrove, British Columbia, has converted all of its foam packaging to RPET, said Rick Watters, sales and marketing manager.
While foam containers are recyclable, few regions include that material in their recycling programs, he said.
“We went to the RPET because it’s very commonly recycled everywhere,” he said.
It also helps reduce shipping costs, since the footprint is about one-third that of foam containers.
Champ’s also is implementing the VistaTrac data collection system software from Ashtabula, Ohio-based Schoneman Inc. to improve production efficiencies.
The company did away with its manual system and uses the new software for Global Trade Identification Numbers labeling, real-time inventory monitoring and picker reporting, Watters said.
The VistaTrac bar-coding and data collection system is in use at 10 of the company’s mushroom farms and at its main processing facility.