Mushrooms gain popularity, but prices stay flat

07/27/2012 03:06:00 PM
Tom Burfield

“There’s no excess out there now,” he said.

Sales of white mushrooms have been steady, and movement on portabellas has been especially strong for Kitchen Pride, he said.

Business also has been strong for all portabella products at Dole Mushrooms, Schroeder said.

Consumers are opting for the flavor and texture profiles of portabellas over some other categories, he said. Retailers and foodservice operators recognize that consumers can tell the difference.

Memorial Day and the Fourth of July were especially big occasions, as consumers picked up full-size portabellas for grilling and baby portabellas for myriad other uses.

Retailers are running major features on portabellas, not just white mushrooms, Schroeder said.

“I think we’re seeing the growth of that category because of that.”

Even pricey specialty mushrooms have been performing well, said Bob Engel, chef liaison for Gourmet Mushrooms Inc., Sebastopol, Calif.

“Business has been very strong, particularly given the economy,” he said.

That’s an indication that “this is an area of the market where there’s growing interest,” he said.

Recchiuti said part of the reason the industry is in somewhat of a bind is the amount of competition.

The unfortunate truth is, when a couple of additional companies go out of business, if demand remains strong, prices might finally inch upward.

“That’s been the history of the mushroom business,” he said.

The typical cycles last about 10 years, but fuel prices and the costs of raw materials also can have an effect.

In order for business to improve today, grower-shippers would have to be able to raise their prices.

“That’s not in the cards right now,” Recchiuti said.

The good news is that their relatively low prices compared with other vegetables make mushrooms look like a bargain to consumers, Schroeder said, and that may be helping increase demand.


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