Courtesy Mushroom Council"Blendability," which mixes mushrooms with meat — such as in the Mushroom Council's Beef Blended Burger Sliders — is catching on in casual dining as a low-calorie option.Foodservice continues to play an important role in the mushroom industry, with many major grower-shippers selling more than half their volume to restaurants.
Basciani Mushroom Farms, Avondale, Pa., considers itself “the foodservice specialist in the mushroom business,” general manager Fred Recchiuti said.
The “blendability” concept, in which chefs blend mushrooms with meat, has been a big hit as the casual dining segment tries to offer lower-calorie menu items, he said.
“This fits in with that,” Recchiuti said.
About half the mushrooms grown by Phillips Mushroom Farms, Kennett Square, Pa., end up at foodservice, said Kevin Donovan, national sales manager.
The company serves casual dining and fine dining restaurants through foodservice distributors, he said.
Casual restaurants tend to prefer white mushrooms, while white tablecloth establishments like more exotic varieties.
Foodservice accounts also like to save labor costs by using processed mushrooms, he added.
At Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farms Inc., Gonzales, Texas, business is about evenly divided between foodservice and retail, said Bill St. John, sales and transportation manager.
Foodservice sales tend to do well during the holidays and into January, he said, then retail sales take off as consumers resolve to cook more nutritious meals at home and eat healthy during the new year.
The company has expanded three or four times over the years, and St. John attributes that largely to increased business in foodservice.
“We’ve had to expand to stay up with them,” he said.
Ponderosa Mushrooms & Specialty Foods, Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, does a lot of foodservice business — some directly and some through distributors, president Joe Salvo said.
Chefs tend to use more of the high-end mushrooms — in which the company specializes — more readily than the public, he said.
Varieties change with the season, but an average good customer may feature four or five cultivated or wild mushrooms on his menu at all times, and some may have up to 10 kinds, he said.