In an orchard update from Domex Superfresh Growers, Dave Gleason talks about the beginning of this year's apple harvest and the use of self-driven, multi-level platforms that aid workers in the pick process.
The platforms allow Domex to do away with ladders altogether, creating a much safer and more efficient working environment. The company is also seeing less bruising on the fruit.
“Mushroom blendability is the driving and emerging trend for mushrooms in both foodservice and retail,” said Bart Minor, president of the Mushroom Council. “Mushrooms are on target to make a big impact at foodservice and retail that will improve consumers’ nutrition and maybe improve the cost to prepare some meals. It’s a win for everyone and will change how consumers think of and use mushrooms.”
The blendability cooking technique combines fresh chopped mushrooms with ground meat. The result is dishes with lower calories, sodium and fat.But due to mushrooms’ meaty texture and high umami content the texture, flavor and acceptance remain the same.
The foodservice sector has adopted blendability — from chain restaurants to industry operations such as schools and health care. Retailers that want to be on the forefront will consider using blendability in their delis and meat cases as well as educating their customers on blending benefits.
Seasons 52, the fresh grill and wine bar restaurant chain, introduced its version of the mushroom-meat blend and call the Angus beef blended with fresh Cremini mushrooms a work of art. Called Mushroom Duxelle Burger, it is being featured throughout the summer. The chain is owned by Darden, one of the largest foodservice companies in the world.
Macaroni Grill recently launched a signature mushroom blend in its Rustic Kitchen Meatball line that blends fresh, chopped mushrooms with veal, garlic, onions and a Marsala wine sauce. The result is a mouth-watering meatball.
“This is just the latest in the Mushroom Council’s focus on blendability,” said Minor. “Colleges across the country are adopting the technique and adding new mushroom-meat blended products that are nutritious and delicious, and this is just the start. Mushroom blendability has significant opportunities ahead and the potential growth is tremendous.”
Minor pointed out that foodservice operators can explore the cost-saving potential and nutrition benefits of mushroom blendability with the council’s new interactive Blend Calculator, available at www.mushroomsinschools.com/mushroom-blendability-calculator.
Organic mushrooms are also making news with retail sales doubling over the past two years, and increasing by 43 percent for the most recent 52 weeks. Organics now have a 6 percent share of the category.
“A study developed by Dr. John Stanton of Saint Joseph’s University measured the effectiveness of messaging claims on mushroom labels to increase sales,” explained Minor. “The results revealed the ‘picked-fresh daily’ claim to be the second-most-effective incentive for customers to purchase mushrooms. The 100 percent vitamin D and B vitamins in mushrooms were also found to be potential demand purchase drivers.”
He added that mushrooms are considered a staple produce item today, pointing out that nothing can replace the item. They are a low-cost way to instantly upscale a meal. The use of blendability on the foodservice level is resulting in customers incorporating mushrooms into their at-home dining experiences.
The Mushroom Council’s “Swap It or Top It” campaign continues to create buzz. Minor said approximately 50 stores entered its “Swap It or Top It” summer contest, which ended July 15.
“Customized promotions took place in major chains across the country,” he said. “The contest drew attention to the mushroom category in the summer months and reminded consumers to include mushrooms in their grilling events. The contest successfully highlighted mushrooms as the go-to addition for summer barbeques along with other traditional summer produce. Over 100 consumers entered our ‘Swap It or Top It’ recipe contest by blending mushrooms into burgers, shish kebabs and more.”
Since 2002, the council has provided more than $850,000 to City of Hope for research on mushrooms and the fight against cancer. The council will demonstrate its ongoing commitment to breast cancer research by providing $50,000 in 2014 to fund research specific to breast cancer. During the October Pink campaign, the council will again provide labels, stickers and point-of-sale materials for the mushroom industry to help promote the continued commitment to breast cancer prevention research.
“Through this partnership researchers at City of Hope recently shared a video that highlights white button mushrooms as part of a study on post-treatment care for prostate cancer,” said Minor. “This important video highlights the potential for new medicinal uses of mushrooms.”
It was a record-breaking year at Produce Marketing Association’s 33rd annual Foodservice Conference, including the unseasonably warm temperatures in Monterey, CA, which soared into the high 80s.
The conference by the numbers:
“It’s great to see so many foodservice and produce professionals here rallying behind the common goal of putting more fresh, delicious, healthy fruits and vegetables on foodservice plates,” said Jill Overdorf, director of business and culinary development for Coosemans Shipping of L.A. and PMA Foodservice Conference Committee co-chair. “Global flavors, the socially conscious consumer, and food safety and technology all took center stage this year – working together to drive consumption.”
“A record-breaking show like this highlights the value of the ongoing collaboration between the fresh produce and foodservice industry. The energy and networking that occurred throughout the weekend was palpable,” said Cathy Burns, PMA president. “Bringing to life our “Innovate the Plate” theme, the innovations came in many forms and represented consumer trends across the foodservice industry – ultimately validating the drive to put more fruits and vegetables in the center of the plate. The dedication of those industry members who served on PMA’s Foodservice Conference Committee under the leadership of Jill Overdorf and Fritz Stelter was pivotal in this year’s success.”
This year is progressing nicely and the apple harvest is set to start about a week early. The weather has been ideal for growing fruit, and Domex has a record size crop hanging on the trees right now. The company expects to have a full complement of apples available by Sept. 1. The fruit is sizing up nicely, with plenty fruit of all sizes available for promotion this next year.
"Cherry harvest is progressing and the fruit is beautiful with excellent quality," said Dave Gleason, chief horticulturalist for Domex. "We've spent the past 52 weeks preparing for where we are right now, picking. We make every effort to make sure we pick the fruit when its ready and in good condition so we deliver it to the warehouses to be put into packaging and sent on to the consumer. People are enjoying our cherries this year and with reason — they're some of the best cherries we've every picked."