Joe Caldwell, vice president of Monterey Mushrooms, headquartered in Watsonville, CA, said the company has seen great consumer response from the national expansion of its sustainable packaging with enhanced consumer messaging.
“This package has been successful beyond the Monterey brand as many private label retailers have also chosen to reach out to their consumers with it,” said Caldwell. “Monterey’s sustainable packaging not only provides earth friendly solutions for consumers that value the natural wholeness of the product and the package, but that also educates the consumer.”
Highlighted with the “Deliciously Healthy” Monterey Mushrooms’ label are recipes, additional meal solution ideas and nutritional benefits, as well as a high resolution photo of a mushroom dish.
“The package is also highlighted with ‘High in Vitamin D’ on the label, which contributes to the superfood properties of nutrient-dense mushrooms that contain 100 percent of the daily value requirement of vitamin D per serving,” added Caldwell. “And that is in addition to the other nutritional benefits and recipes.”
He also noted that Monterey Mushrooms is continuing to expand its popular stuffed mushroom variety line. And, as always, the company continues to expand and enhance its operation.
“We have expanded our distribution fleet and formed Monterey Logistics to provide enhanced services to our customers,” said Caldwell. “Consolidating loads with LTL freight from other produce suppliers helps distribution centers increase their efficiencies by reducing the truck load at the dock. This service has grown dramatically over the past five to six years with excellent equipment and drivers. Monterey Logistics will be featured in Monterey’s booth at the PMA Fresh Summit in New Orleans in October.”
Caldwell explained that the mushroom industry continues to see a steady growth in consumption and demand at both retail and food service.
“The efforts to better reach consumers with the flavor and nutritional value of mushrooms along with the versatility for every meal has been reinforced by the popularity of cooking shows and celebrity chefs,” he said. “The outlook for mushrooms is outstanding for the future, particularly with the interest in flavorful solutions to health concerns.”
Producers meanwhile have suffered significant cost increases and reduced margins.
“This has forced a couple of large mushroom farms to close this year,” said Caldwell. “Supply will be a major concern, particularly during the holiday season, and will result in higher prices. The long term commitment to the industry by mushroom growers will result in these higher prices being reinvested back into the industry through expansions to meet the growing demand.”
He also commented on the strong produce industry movements and trends of the day, including locally grown, sustainability, the slow food movement and others.
“All of these trends have a positive impact on the mushroom industry,” he said. “Growth in organic mushrooms and specialty mushrooms are consistently over 10 percent annually, although they are still less than five percent of the category volume. These specific trends are societal in nature and are driven by other factors, but mushrooms are great solutions for each one.”
Caldwell admits that the mushroom category is not “recession proof,” but the industry did see consistent growth throughout the recent economic downturn.
“I believe consumers are finding out what a real value mushrooms are in meal solutions,” he suggests. “For that reason, I don’t expect the U.S. economic status to detract from the demand growth we are experiencing.”
But that doesn’t make the mushroom category exempt from the challenges that everyone in the produce industry faces. Caldwell points out unsolved questions regarding health care costs, energy costs, labor, food safety and many other issues that lead to uncertainty about all producers’ ability to continue to provide excellent healthy product at historically low prices. Any significant upset in any of these areas will create a challenge for the industry.
Monterey embraced the Mushroom Council’s Swap It or Top It campaign and has promoted it through it on-line efforts.
Monterey Mushrooms and Monterey Logistics will be at booth number 2439 at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in New Orleans. Caldwell invites all visitors to stop by to learn about all of the great things the company is doing.