“The trend to menu wild mushrooms in foodservice is not only at white-tablecloth operations any longer,” said Pete Wilder, marketing director for To-Jo Mushrooms in Avondale, PA. “A recent Technomic survey indicated that Oyster mushroom usage is up over 25 percent from a year ago. At the retail level, our sliced Shiitake sales have increased considerably over one year ago.”
In addition to its wide assortment of white and brown mushrooms in numerous pack sizes, To-Jo produces and distributes a full line of specialty mushrooms such as Oysters, Shitake, Beech, Maitake and Royal Trumpet. Its line is available in fresh, quick-blanched and processed options.
The company distributes across North America. It offers all of the popular foodservice and industrial pack sizes, as well as a wide range of consumer packages for retail. The company brands its products under numerous brands, including “To-Jo Mushroom,” “Nita’s Nicest” and “To-Jo Back of the House.” It also offers a wide range of private-label applications for its retail and foodservice customers.
To-Jo is a vertically integrated, family-owned, grower, packer and shipper. Wilder said that controlling quality is of the utmost importance to the company and its customers.
“By being vertically integrated we can assure that the freshest products are always delivered to our customers within 24 hours of harvest,” he noted.
“We comply with all PTI milestones and offer full traceability to all of our customers,” said Wilder. “We also realized that the locally grown trend is important these days. To meet this demand we support a number of local marketing initiatives with our regional customers. Having the opportunity to use To-Jo as a local supplier in their marketing campaigns has been a win-win situation for both our customers and our business.”
Wilder explained that mushroom farming in general is a very sustainable farming practice. To-Jo recycles more than 40,000-tons of farm by-products each year; ingredients such as, hay, straw, corn cobs and cocoa husks that go into the compost material used in the growing beds.
“To-Jo has also implemented a fully Integrated Pest Management Program and follows the strictest MGAP and HAACP practices,” he added. “We have a ‘Go Green Lighting’ initiative from Macro Energy in place which has lowered our carbon footprint by over 500,000-pounds of Co2 annually. To-Jo also owns its own wastewater treatment plant which allows direct stream discharge of treated water from our processing facility, recharging the local watershed. And we also reuse heated water from our mushroom processing equipment to pre-heat other areas in the production facility, saving even more on energy costs.”
The stabilized economy, Wilder noted, has helped the mushroom industry maintain its volume numbers through quarter one of 2014, but To-Jo’s growth has surpassed even that.
“We have actually seen close to five percent growth in the quarter,” he said. “Our customers want value, and they are willing to pay for it. Specialty mushrooms can play a part in that model and they are being menued more often than in the past. The total menu penetration of mushrooms is currently at an all-time high of 81 percent across a variety of dining segments.”