Mushrooms: The Food That Keeps Giving

Organic Mushrooms Growing Fastest

Organic mushrooms have continued to grow at a pace even faster than their conventional counterparts, and they have reached the point that most retailers would do well to consider them as a regular product.

“Growers produced 128 million pounds of mushrooms that were certified organic during the 2017-2018 growing season, 16% above 2016-2017,” according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture release in August 2018. “Sixty-eight percent of the total, or 87.4 million pounds, were sold as certified organic mushrooms. This is up 17 percentage points from the 2016-2017 crop year. Agaricus mushrooms accounted for 83% of the mushrooms sold as certified organic, while all specialty mushrooms made up the remainder.”

For the first time, the organic share of the market has reached double digits. And that number is still increasing.

“The total certified organic sales of all mushrooms represented 10% of the 2017-2018 total mushroom sales,” according to the release.

The pioneer among organic producers has come out with a line of specialty packs and varieties.

“We’ve been coming out with new products like organic medley, oyster and shitakes,” says Thomas Leo, sales and procurement manager at Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms, West Grove, PA. “Organic has been growing a little better than conventional the past 10 years. We were the first organic mushroom farm in the United States 26 years ago, and we’re seeing a good eight-percent growth in organics.”

Even the largest mainstream conventional producers are taking notice of the growing demand for organic mushrooms.

“We’re seeing organics grow quite a bit,” says Kevin Donovan, national sales manager at Phillips Mushroom Farms, Kennett Square, PA. “They’re up three to four percent, and that’s a consistent number.”

The greatest growth in mushrooms may be in products that were an afterthought not long ago.

“Whites and browns continue to dominate the category, but we are seeing double-digit growth in exotics and specialty mushrooms along with organics,” says Greg Sagan, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Giorgio Foods, Temple, PA.