Most major mushroom marketers have turned to sliced and other kinds of value-added items to fill out their product lines.
“The trend in the value-added mushroom category, especially in sliced mushrooms, has seen a steady upward trajectory,” said Bill Litvin, senior vice president of sales and national account manager for Giorgio Fresh Co., Temple, Pa. “I see that continuing into the future.
Giorgio offers an array of value-added mushrooms, from sliced to chopped in a variety of pack sizes to accommodate foodservice customers, including 3-, 5- and 10-pound boxes, Litvin said. The firm also offers sliced product in 5-pound tubs.
“For retail chains, a majority of our products are offered in 4-, 8-, 10-, 16- and 24-ounce packages,” he said, but he added that not all labels are offered in those specific sizes.
“Our stuffed port caps and our new stuffed baby bellas have been doing very well,” he added.
Ostrom Mushroom Farms, Olympia, Wash., is seeing increased demand for sliced mushrooms, especially at foodservice, said Fletcher Street, director of marketing and sales.
At first, foodservice operators were reluctant to pay a premium for sliced mushrooms, she said. But with increased labor pressure, not to mention a drop in liability associated with chopping mushrooms in-house, restaurants now are finding sliced more beneficial, Street said.
Pre-sliced mushrooms offer a more consistent product than product cut in-house, she added.
“(Pre-sliced mushrooms) makes sense for a big operation,” Street said.
Foodservice operators can be very specific in their requests, she said. Some pizza restaurants request a 3/16- or quarter-inch sliced product.
At retail, sliced portabellas seem to be performing well, she said.
In all, about 20% of the company’s mushrooms are sliced.
Street said Ostrom Mushroom Farms is one of a handful of companies that offer vitamin D-enhanced mushrooms. The extra nutrition boost is available in sliced white mushrooms, whole and sliced criminis and sliced portabella caps.
The vitamin D-enhanced product has been slow to gain traction since it was introduced about three years ago, she said.
The process adds little additional cost, but special equipment is required.
“We thought that to be at the front of the market, we needed to do that,” Street said.
Gourmet Mushrooms Inc., Sebastopol, Calif., has added 8-ounce packages of trumpet royale and Maitake Frondosa mushrooms, said Meg Hill, director of sales and marketing.
The company offers a 4-ounce package, as well, and some chefs like the 1- and 3-pound bags for foodservice.
The firm is looking at new slicing machinery for the trumpet royale, since it’s firm and works well for slicing, she said.
Joe Salvo, president of Ponderosa Mushrooms & Specialty Foods, Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, was hoping to have a new value-added line of mushrooms launched by mid-August.
“We’re launching a line of what I’m calling mushroom antipasto — a prepared, ready-to-serve pickled mushroom,” he said.
The product was well-received by chefs and retailers alike at the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservice Association — now called Restaurants Canada — show in March.
“I think it’s really going to be a winner on many levels,” Salvo said.
The product will be launched at foodservice first, but eventually a retail line should be available, as well.
To-Jo Mushrooms, Avondale, Pa., offers a full line of value-added products, including sliced, whole and fully prepared mushrooms for foodservice and retail, said marketing director Peter Wilder.
“We have a full line of products from quick-blanched pouches for foodservice distributors,” he said, to fully flavored sliced, whole and marinated mushrooms for salad applications.
To-Jo’s prepared mushrooms work well for foodservice by removing labor, adding consistency and quality, he said.
They come in containers of three 8-pound packs and are refrigerated to extend shelf life.
The firm also is working on a signature saute sliced white mushroom product with butter and garlic sauce for foodservice operators or the prepared-food section at retail.