Monterey Mushrooms is one of the companies that is promoting a retail pack of finely diced mushrooms ready to be used with ground meat, as consumer awareness of The Blend continues to grow. ( Courtesy Monterey Mushrooms )

The Blend — mixing chopped mushrooms and ground meat — has established a foothold in foodservice outlets.

Now, marketers say, it is helping make their jobs easier in retail produce departments.

“The Blend has been a powerful marketing tool, helping to educate consumers on the many health benefits of mushrooms and how to incorporate mushrooms into their diet,” said Lori Harrison, spokeswoman for the Avondale, Pa.-based American Mushroom Institute.

For one thing, The Blend has given mushrooms visibility beyond store produce departments, Harrison said.

 

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“Additionally, showcasing the versatility of mushrooms to the consumer through cross-promotions is effective, said Bill St. John, sales director with Gonzales, Texas-based Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farms Inc.

“Several retailers have had very good success with cross-merchandising mushrooms with the meat department and placing a small mushroom display in that department,” he said.

Several retailers have had very good success with cross-merchandising mushrooms with the meat department and placing a small mushroom display in that department.

Retail marketing strategies can change with the seasons, too, Harrison said.

“In the summer, promotions feature mushrooms, like portabellas, as the darling of the grill; blended burger sampling and demonstrations; whole mushrooms for skewers or kebabs; and sliced mushrooms atop salads,” she said.

“Winter months see mushrooms paired with ingredients in heartier dishes like soups, stew and stir-fries.”

Locally grown product also “resonates as a strong decision-maker” for consumers, Harrison said.

It’s important to tailor a marketing program to an individual customer’s needs, said Greg Sagan, senior vice president of sales and marketing with Temple, Pa.-based Giorgio Fresh Co.

“We utilize the findings of the Mushroom Council’s best practices and work with our customers to develop customized programs to optimize their consumer base to further expand the category,” he said.

Freshness is key, St. John said.

“Maintain the cold chain and make sure there is fresh product on the shelves,” he said. “Good quality and adequate inventory really move mushrooms at store level.”

Produce managers should be mushroom experts, said Pete Wilder, marketing director with Avondale-based To-Jo Mushrooms.

“To-Jo continues to work with its retail partners on ways to merchandise and reduce shrink on its mushrooms products, offering a variety of training materials and nutritional information out to produce managers,” he said.

“The opportunity to use a secondary display to promote items is a great approach to increase exposure and lift sales while running a promotion.”

Merchandisers always need to be cognizant of customer preferences, said Mike O’Brien, vice president of sales and marketing with Watsonville, Calif.-based Monterey Mushrooms Inc.

“To minimize shrink and maximize sales it’s important to know your consumer and offer the variety that matches the store demographics,” he said.

Kennett Square, Pa.-based Oakshire Mushroom Farm offers retailers several packaging options, including the Dole label, said Gary Schroeder, CEO.

“For us, the Dole brand is a big factor,” but we also do the private-label and Oakshire brand, and organic, so it depends on the marketing strategy of the individual retailers,” he said.

Sophisticated category management is how retailers optimize their shelf space to maximize their sales and profits in the mushroom category, O’Brien said, such as “the utilization of scan sales, purchases and shrink data and matching demographics to your planograms.”

Successful mushroom marketing at retail is a result of working closely with retail customers, O’Brien said. 

“We believe in partnering with our retail customers in collaborative category management,” he said.

Within the next nine months, we predict there will be retail blended burgers in the frozen food section, fresh meat section and prepared foods section, as several retailers are already in test.

For Kennett Square-based Phillips Mushroom Farms, retail success involves a variety of approaches, said Kevin Donovan, sales manager.

“I think nowadays, it’s a combination of promotions and usage ideas, recipes,” he said.

One of Monterey’s larger marketing initiatives at retail has been promoting the product’s health benefits, highlighting vitamin D in particular, O’Brien said.

“They are the only produce item with natural vitamin D, important not only for bones, but essential for healthy immune systems,” he said.

Meanwhile, The Blend will continue to make its move across the retail spectrum, Harrison said.

“Within the next nine months, we predict there will be retail blended burgers in the frozen food section, fresh meat section and prepared foods section, as several retailers are already in test,” she said.

 
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