( Photo courtesy Courtesy American Mushroom Institute )

The run-ups to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are peak sales periods for mushrooms, but there’s a post-holiday run on the product, as well, marketers say.

“Demand for mushrooms has continued to climb, year over year,” said Kevin Delaney, vice president of sales and marketing at Avondale, Pa.-based grower-shipper To-Jo Mushrooms.

That’s despite price bumps, he said.

“Market pricing increased in the last quarter, but demand never lost any momentum,” Delaney said. 

“We are seeing consistent and strong growth in both retail and foodservice, which is a great indication that mushrooms are remaining top of mind for consumers.”  

Sales did not slow down after the holidays, said Kevin Donovan, national sales director at Kennett Square, Pa.-based grower-shipper Phillips Mushrooms.

“We are seeing a strong demand for mushrooms continue after the holidays,” he said. “I believe there are more consumers who are purchasing mushrooms every week as a staple item, like apples, potatoes, lettuce, etc.”

The cold-weather months generally bode well for mushroom sales, Donovan said.

“Moving into the winter season, we normally see more home cooking, and mushrooms usage is strong this time of year,” he said. 

Supplies should be steady throughout, Donovan said. 

“Production has come back after the holidays and shortages, if any, should not be very significant,” he said.

The same goes for organic mushrooms, Donovan said.

“Interest in and sales of organics continue to grow, and that should indicate a need for promotions at retail,” he said.

Steady supplies may be the rule moving forward, according to the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Mushroom Council, which recently reported that “multiple producers” were either planning or recently had completed expansions. 

The council cited expansion projects at Miami, Okla.-based J-M Farms and Olympia, Wash.-based Ostrom Mushrooms as examples.

The volume of sales for the 2018-19 mushroom crop totaled 846 million pounds, down 3% from a year earlier across comparable states, according to the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) 2019 Report. 

Value of sales for the 2018-19 mushroom crop was $1.13 billion, down slightly from the previous season for comparable states; however, the average reported price was $1.34 per pound, up 3 cents from the previous year’s price for comparable states.

According to the updated report, brown mushrooms (portabella and crimini) saw increases in both volume and value of sales from 2018-19, said Rachel Roberts, president of the Avondale, Pa.-based American Mushroom Institute, noting that sales volume increased 2.7% from 2018-19, and the value of sales jumped 6.3% from 2018-19.

“A growing area of interest for growers is harnessing the snack and medicinal markets for fresh mushrooms, snack mushrooms and nutrition- and diet-focused products,” Roberts said. 

“While fresh mushrooms continue to drive all mushroom sales, generally, the consumer interest in mushrooms as a super food and in mushroom properties, such as ergothienine, is driving a shift in branding and marketing to emphasize the goodness of mushrooms”

There are other indicators of growth, the Mushroom Council reported in a news release Jan. 13:

  • Starting in October, the council tracked more than 40 news stories that named mushrooms and/or The Blend a top food trend for 2020. Retailer Whole Foods predicted blending meat with mushrooms would continue to trend upward, as reported in multiple outlets including Fast Company and Forbes.
  • Sales continued to trend upward, along with retail pricing of mushrooms, the council reported, noting that, as of Nov. 3, 2019, the average selling price for fresh mushrooms had increased from $4.06 to $4.17 per pound, year-on-year.

As of Jan. 17, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the wholesale price of 10-pound cartons of white mushrooms at the terminal market in Atlanta was $16.25-18. Ten-pound cartons of crimini mushrooms were $18-19. For 5-pound cartons, portabellas were $13-15; shiitakes, $24-26.50; and oysters, $23-24. All of the above varieties were grown in Pennsylvania.

A year earlier, whites in 10-pound cartons were $16.25-18, while criminis were $18-19. In 5-pound cartons, shiitakes were $24-26.50; oysters, $23-24; and portabellas, $13-14.50.

Meanwhile, mushroom shipments were even with or above their pace of the previous year, According to the Mushroom Council, 802 million pounds of mushrooms were shipped through October 2019, compared to 778 million a year earlier. 

The council also noted that, in June and August, mushroom sales exceeded 80 million pounds for the first time. “indicating that there no longer is a summer sales slump.” 

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