While packaged mushrooms likely stay fresh longer than bulk, many consumers still prefer choosing their own mushrooms in the exact amount they need, marketers say. ( Pamela Riemenschneider )

Mushroom marketers say they know how to package their product for steadily increasing sales at retail and foodservice.

Mushrooms fit nicely into consumers’ intensified focus on healthier fare, at home and in restaurants, Lori Harrison, communications manager with the Avondale, Pa.-based American Mushroom Institute.

“Shoppers are spending more time in the produce aisle, increasing their purchases to address specific health concerns,” Harrison said.

The mushroom industry is helping consumers to find ways to blend mushrooms with ground meat and incorporate them into more recipes, Harrison said.

“With initiatives like The Blend and #Blenditarian, consumers are becoming more comfortable with ways to incorporate mushrooms into their diet, while value-added items like mushroom blends can attract consumers to try new things,” she said.

Mushrooms are at the top of 2018 food trend lists, thanks to influencers like Whole Foods drawing attention “to mushrooms’ functional properties,” said Amy Wood, spokeswoman with the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Mushroom Council.

Wood quoted a prediction from Today.com dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth, who noted “there will be a fungus frenzy this year,” and pointed out “the Blenditarian movement, which combines ground beef with ground mushrooms to make a savory, but much healthier — lower in fat and calories — and Earth-friendly burger gained footing this year on restaurant menus.”

On the retail front, packaging options are expanding and leading to more sales, said Greg Sagan, executive vice president of sales and marketing with Temple, Pa.-based Giorgio Fresh Co.

“Packaged mushrooms tend to sell best as they extend shelf life by reducing drying out,” he said. “Sliced mushrooms continue to outpace whole in most sub-categories.”

Retailers boost sales through creative merchandising, Sagan said.

“Most merchandisers have experienced impressive success with mushrooms using frequent promotions throughout the year,” he said.

Cross-merchandising works well with mushrooms, said Bill St. John, sales director with Gonzales, Texas-based Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farms Inc.

“Cross-promoting mushrooms with salads and/or proteins, as well as in-store demos and recipes all help with consumer acceptance and education,” he said.

Retail customers use bulk and small package mushrooms, St. John said.

“The packaged mushrooms likely stay fresh longer than bulk. However, some consumers prefer to buy bulk so they can purchase just what they need and can choose their own mushrooms.”

Aggressive merchandising is a key to success in mushroom sales at retail, agreed Mike O’Brien, vice president of sales and marketing with Watsonville, Calif.-based Monterey Mushrooms Inc.

“We recommend merchandising mushrooms in your very best refrigerated case next to the bag salad category,” he said.

Monterey is promoting larger packages, brown mushrooms, exotics, organics and a new stuffed baby portabella package, O’Brien said, noting that larger packages increase consumption and sales.

“Retailers can take advantage of the mushroom growth by offering solutions to their customers, such as recipes and product information,” O’Brien said.

In foodservice, many outlets have joined the “blendability” movement and are featuring mushrooms as not only meat alternatives, but also meat enhancements, Sagan said.

“We will see much more of this in foodservice in 2018,” he said.

An increasing number of restaurants are adding mushrooms to their menus and are expanding how they are used, St. John said.

“When a quick-service restaurant puts a mushroom burger or other sandwich that uses mushrooms on their menu, it adds considerably to total mushroom demand,” he said.

He noted that the Sonic hamburger chain is trying out a blended burger.

“If it is successful enough that it moves to a national level, that would be a very large increase in mushroom use, similar to the result when Pizza Hut began using fresh mushrooms instead of canned — many other pizza makers followed,” he said.