The Blend plays a big part in the marketing of fresh mushrooms, but packaging, nutrition and utility contribute, marketers say.
“There are so many combinations of varieties and pack sizes that you can choose for your mushroom set,” Kevin Delaney, vice president of sales and marketing at Avondale, Pa.-based To-Jo Mushrooms, said in reference to retail marketing strategy.
Getting the right mix into displays is important, Delaney said.
“From there, the best way to grow your mushroom sales is through secondary displays,” he said. “Since mushrooms are so versatile and simple to cook, it naturally presents itself as a healthy impulse purchase.”
Specialty varieties are seeing “double-digit” growth, Delaney said.
“Mushroom blends are a great way to introduce new varieties to consumers,” Delaney said.
“We expect to see really strong growth in this category over the next two or three years.”
There is a growing emphasis on specialty mushrooms, such as oysters, maitakes, shiitakes and pom-poms — also called lion’s mane, said Rachel Roberts, president of the Avondale, Pa.-based American Mushroom Institute.
Kennett Square, Pa.-based Phillips Mushrooms recognizes the importance of varietal choice as well as convenience, said Kevin Donovan, national sales manager.
“Phillips has introduced a 5-ounce sliced shiitake — conventional and organic — for retail, and the sales increases have been very significant,” he said.
“The consumer is still looking for that convenience factor.”
Retailers need to be active in the marketing and merchandising process, said Greg Sagan, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Temple, Pa.-based Giorgio Fresh Co.
“To succeed in this very competitive retail climate, retailers need to know their customers; what makes sense for one retailer would create excessive shrink at another retailer,” he said.
“Giorgio works with our customers to determine the ideal space to maximize sales and minimize shrink individually.”
Consumers prize convenience and value, Sagan said.
“Those looking to cook for a larger group sometimes prefer to buy in bulk, while the more casual consumer might prefer a smaller, pre-packaged item,” he said.
Shoppers now also are more informed about culinary and “functional trends” of mushrooms, Sagan said.
“Whites and browns continue to dominate the category, but we are seeing double-digit growth in exotics and specialty mushrooms,” he said.
“Organics have also shown strong growth with consumers.”
Consumers are learning more about mushrooms, and that is helping sales, Roberts said.
The industry is helping to better educate consumers about mushroom coloration.
“As consumers are embracing rustic aesthetics in the farm-to-table movement, we’ve seen a better understanding of what ‘browning’ is, and the advantages of using mushrooms at peak flavor periods that may not correlate with the traditionally understood whiteness of a mushroom.”
Mushrooms also enjoy status as a substitute for meat, said Fletcher Street, director of sales and marketing with Olympia, Wash.-based Ostrom Mushroom Farms.
“We expect, as people try to eat less meat and more ‘plants’, that mushrooms will see increased consumer interest due to the ‘meatiness’ and umami found in mushrooms,” Street said.
Marketers also note that The Blend — a mixture of chopped mushrooms and meat — is taking off.
Blend recipes are gaining traction in foodservice, according to the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Mushroom Council.
The council recently reported The Blend as “a top 2020 food trend” and that retailer Whole Foods predicts blending meat with mushrooms will continue to trend.
In January, the council noted, the National Restaurant Association named mushrooms the top produce item of 2020 and The Blend as a 2020 trend in its “What’s Hot” 2020 Culinary Forecast.