The Blend, a cooking technique that combines chopped mushrooms with ground meat, continues to be the Mushroom Council’s primary promotional focus.
“Over the past year we have expanded our promotional footprint, marketing to new audiences in new places, earning increased blend adoption and sales,” said council spokesman Eric Davis.
The Blend has experienced broad expansion at retail over the past two years as multiple brands introduced premade and typically frozen blended patties, he said.
The Mushroom Council also has placed a great emphasis on blending at home over the past year through a two-part consumer campaign.
The council and consumer magazine publisher Conde Nast have engaged in a strategic digital partnership aimed at early-adopting and opinion-leading home cooks, Davis said.
At the forefront of the partnership is the annual Blended Burger Project: Home Edition, which mirrored the namesake restaurant competition the Mushroom Council has conducted among foodservice audiences for five years with the James Beard Foundation, he said.
Early this year, the Mushroom Council expanded its digital outreach for The Blend to broader consumer audiences.
In February, the council launched the “Remix Your Recipe” consumer ad campaign featuring YouTube ads with animated DJ turntables spinning burgers on the platters.
Ads and videos have been viewed more than 14 million times, Davis said.
By springtime, weekly retail sales volumes for mushrooms were consistently 25%-35% higher than the same time period in 2019, he said.
Messaging from the Mushroom Council is that if you blend mushrooms with meat, you benefit in myriad ways, said Fletcher Street, marketing and sales director for Ostrom Mushroom Farms, Olympia, Wash.
For one thing, it lowers the cost of the burgers when mushrooms are substituted for 30% of the meat, she said.
The blended burger also is lower in fat and sodium than traditional burgers, and it scored higher in blind taste testing, she said.
“It’s healthy, it tastes better, and it’s better on the pocketbook,” Street said.
“The Mushroom Council has done a tremendous job on promoting the versatility of mushrooms,” said Kevin Delaney, vice president of sales and marketing for To-Jo Mushrooms, Avondale, Pa.
“At a time when plant-based products are getting a lot of media attention, the blend provides a simple, flavorful and nutritious option that can help achieve the same goal,” he said.
The blended burger is the best of all worlds, said Michael Richmond, vice president of sales for South Mill Champs, Kennett Square, Pa.
“Unquestionably, the continued demand from chefs and consumers will drive this offering forward,” he said.
The mixture of meat and mushrooms provides a more flavorful product that is moister than regular burgers as well as a healthier product with lower calories and a higher nutritional profile, Richmond said.
The company’s IQF — individual quick freezing — business is producing a full range of mushroom blends for quick-serve restaurants and commercial meat producers in anticipation of what is expected to be explosive growth
in the category, he said.
“Alongside a blended burger longer-term, we will be promoting an entire mushroom vegan blend,” he added.
Phillips Gourmet Inc., the processing division of Kennett Square-based Phillips Mushroom Farms, has marketed blended proteins for the past three years, said Sean Steller, director of business development.
Most of the focus was on burgers and bulk packs to foodservice and higher-education dining facilities, he said.
“With COVID changing the game, we are working on a blend-ready frozen mushroom product that will hopefully be on shelves this year,” Steller said.
“This is a great, innovative product that really adds a big convenience factor to facilitate more blending.”