( Photo courtesy Giorgio Fresh Co. )

The 2018 Fresh Summit is in the rearview mirror. The energy and excitement generated by so many like-minded companies and passionate individuals promoting wholesome products that are good for you, good for the earth, and good for world economies, never fail to build pride in what we do.  

Add in the youthful energy and creative ideas of the students with the Center for Growing Talent and it is almost overwhelming. But this year there was something more apparent to me.

While the mushroom category has continued to demonstrate consistent growth, as evidenced by four of the first six months of 2018 setting all-time-record national sales, the collective creativity and innovation from grower-shippers across this continent has never been more impressive that what was on display at this year’s Fresh Summit. 

This sets a clear vision of sustained growth for the future of our category.

Already some were calling 2018 the “year of the mushroom” after innovative products and packaging went to market. 

While I beam at the consumer response Giorgio has received from our lines of stuffed mushrooms, Blendabella, and Savory Wild Portabella Jerky, also impressive have been Monterey’s Let’s Blend rollout, Highline’s top seal packaging and blend product, Southmill/Champ’s dried mushroom chips and nutrition bars, Country Fresh’s Mealtime Mix’n mushrooms, Gourmet’s Finest Crumbles, and To-Jo Mushrooms’ Pulled Port.  

At this year’s Fresh Summit, we also saw creative new applications ranging from Chef Barry’s Mushroom Cheesesteak to Highline’s Mushroom Tacos and Monterey’s Blended Meatball. And what about Mycotea’s mushroom tea?  

More creative ideas were shown from Phillips Mushrooms, Gourmet Mushrooms, Guan’s, Green Giant, Dole, MonteBlanco, and others.

Honestly, there has been so much in the news this year about The Blend and Sonic’s successful introduction of its Signature Slinger, the first fast-food mushroom and beef blended burger, that many have been unaware of the other creative innovation approaches throughout the mushroom community.  

Having served several terms on the board of the national Mushroom Council, I couldn’t be prouder of the collective energy being created across North America. We will continue to have challenges with labor, supply, transportation, and other areas of concern, but the best years in the mushroom category are not in the past. 

The “year of the mushroom” is yet to come, and at Fresh Summit, retailers and foodservice operators alike were treated to a front-row seat of what the future might hold.

Joe Caldwell is president of Giorgio Fresh Co., Temple, Pa.