( File photo )

While overall production of mushrooms in the U.S. was slightly down in the 2017-18 season, sales hit an all-time high, at $1.23 billion, buoyed by per-pound increases across the board, for fresh and processed, agaricus and specialty mushrooms.

Total mushroom production was 917 million pounds in 2017-18, down 2% from the previous season, but with average prices rising 3 cents a pound for the overall crop, the $1.23 billion represents a 1% increase from the past season, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual mushroom report, released Aug. 21.

The American Mushroom Institute named several factors are boosting demand, including nutrition, sustainability and flavor. Recent boosts for the category include:

A limited time offer for the Sonic Slinger at 3,500 of the quick-service restaurant’s U.S. locations. The burgers consisted of 25-35% chopped mushrooms;

New uses for mushrooms, like Giorgio Foods’ Savory Wild Portabella Jerky; and

The James Beard Foundation’s annual Blended Burger Project, which also spawned a limited offering of a Blue Apron meal kit focusing on the mushroom/meat blend this summer. Chef’d also debuted a blended burger meal

Mushroom companies, including To-Jo Mushrooms and Monterey Mushrooms, have diced mushroom retail packs, an effort that moves foodservice trends to retail.

“Foodservice uses of mushrooms are having a tremendous impact on the retail appeal of mushrooms, influencing home cooks to expand their use of mushrooms,” Bart Minor, Mushroom Council president and CEO, said in a release. “We are continuing to broaden our strategic partnerships and our outreach to the retail consumer, giving them more reasons to love and buy more mushrooms, more often.”


Fresh category reigns

The percentage of mushrooms that went to the fresh market — 91% — is the highest since the USDA began reporting on the crop in 1966, when overall production was much lower (under 155 million pounds), and 75% of the crop went to processors.

Fresh agaricus sales (white button/portabello/crimini) averaged $1.32 a pound, a one-cent increase, and processed agaricus markets rose from about 67 cents a pound to 73.6 cents a pound.

Specialty mushrooms, the bulk of which are grown for the fresh market, saw average prices across the U.S. rise from $3.86 a pound last season to $4.06 in 2017-18. The value of the specialty mushroom crop rose from $92.6 million two years ago to $105.7 in 2017-18, according to the report.

Agaricus production was 891 million pounds, of which 187 million pounds were brown mushrooms (crimini/portabello). Specialty mushroom production was 27.4 million pounds, a slight decrease from the previous year.

Organic mushrooms continue to see steep growth, with sales at about 10% of the overall crop. Of the 128 million pounds certified as organic, only 68% were marketed as organic, but that’s still a 17% increase over the previous season. And while the mushroom industry has seen the number growers shrink — 19 fewer specialty growers in two years and 22 fewer agaricus growers in the past 10 years — organic producers added four to their number in the past year, and at 80 growers, they represent 26% of the 307 growers in the U.S., according to the report.

The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service has archived the annual reports through the years online.