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Monterey Mushroom Inc., headquartered in Watsonville, CA, is continuing the national roll out of its sustainable packaging with nutritional and recipe information for consumers.

“This product is getting great consumer response and is currently available from all our locations,” said Joe Caldwell, vice president of the company. “About 30 percent of our retail partners have converted to this package. We also continue to highlight the quality and great variety of mushrooms that we offer.”

The company has also received tremendous response to the sustainable package from 8ozsicedBBconsumers who are outspoken about their personal convictions. Mr. Caldwell said that mushroom growing is a tremendously sustainable process with enormous amounts of recycling at every stage.

“The Slow Food movement is interesting and positive, and a few mushroom producers in particular markets have gotten involved in a larger way,” he noted.

Over the past year, Monterey has reinforced its sales team with the addition of Kevin Eichele as its West region sales director, Mike Muehlbauer as its Midwest sales manager and Connie Allen as Southeast sales manager.

“We have also specifically focused growth in our Logistics group, expanding our already national freight system at every location,” Mr. Caldwell added. “Monterey Logistics is now providing added services and less-than-load deliveries to retail and foodservice partners across the country.”

Mr. Caldwell said that the current economic status has certainly put financial strains on mushroom growers.

“Several have gone out of business and many others are on the brink,” he said. “The future will see more consolidations, but unless we find a way to pass some cost increases on to the consumer, the industry, which is seeing demand growth, will struggle with supply to meet that demand. Fortunately, consumers have shown their willingness to pay for the value that mushrooms provide.”

He concurs with others in the mushroom industry that the drought across much of the nation this year is leading to shortages and higher prices for many agricultural commodities.

“Mushrooms require a special compost made from wheat straw, hay, corn stover, soybeans, poultry litter and cotton seeds, among others,” said Mr. Caldwell. “In addition, mushroom spawn — the equivalent of seed — is made from rye or millet grains. All of these are seeing double-digit increases in costs, some of which is driven by availability and corresponding freight costs from other parts of the country. Some of these costs will have to be passed along in order for producers to survive.”

The mushroom industry reaching the billion dollar mark last year is an indicator of the consistent growth in the mushroom category. Mr. Caldwell said that all of the socio-economic trends are positive for the mushroom industry, adding, “We expect continued growth. In order for the industry to provide expanded production to meet this growth, we must insure the financial health of the growers by dealing with the divergent trends of increasing costs and declining real prices.”