Giorgio Fresh Company headquartered in Temple, PA, is a leading producer of fresh, value-added and processed mushrooms. Bill Litvin, regional sales and national account manager for the company, told The Produce News that The Mushroom Council data show that mushroom sales are very strong today.
“In the last reporting period, white mushroom [sales by] pounds are up 3.9 percent, brown mushrooms are up 4.1 percent and specialty mushrooms are up 9.2 percent,” said Mr. Litvin. “Specialty whole mushroom sales by pounds are up 5.9 percent, and sliced are up 21.7 percent.” The data from the Council’s Topline Report period ending May 22, 2011, “indicate sales increases versus a year ago,” he said.
Mr. Litvin suggested that the trend of increased mushroom sales may be due in part to the positive media coverage mushrooms are receiving.
“During competitive cooking shows like ‘Top Chef,’ mushrooms are often used in meals prepared by contestants,” said Mr. Litvin. “And when Los Angeles Dodger Matt Kemp was recently profiled in People Magazine, he mentioned eating mushroom salad as part of his staying-fit regime. Not to mention that the Food Network web site offers consumers access to 2,934 mushroom-related recipes, tips and techniques.”
The nutritional aspect also adds to the current strong appeal of mushrooms. Mr. Litvin said that they are low in calories, low in sodium and rich in nutrients, including B vitamins and minerals like potassium.
“They are also loaded with antioxidants,” he added. “They have a lot of essential amino acids, so they’re a pretty good source of protein. And they’re one of the few food sources of vitamin D.”
In October 2010, Giorgio Fresh completed an expansion of its Fresh Pack facility to handle additional customer demand. The company has also recently expanded its distribution to Texas and to Arizona.
The company has one of the larger single-site mushroom-growing operations in the country.
“We are the second largest mushroom grower in the United States,” said Mr. Litvin. “Giorgio Fresh is SQF [Safe Quality Food] Level 3 certified. We grow our organic mushrooms at our farms in the Reading, Pennsylvania area.”
Giorgio Fresh offers an extensive line of organic mushrooms and is certified organic by Pennsylvania Certified Organic, commonly referred to as PCO. The company grows the balance of its mushrooms using Integrated Pest Management, known as IPM techniques.
“While not organic, these IPM practices reduce our reliance on pesticides,” said Mr. Litvin. “IPM techniques are a sustainable method of growing that uses shorter crop cycles, pest exclusion, biological controls, strict farm sanitation and sound growing practices that produce healthy, disease-resistant crops. Our natural biological controls are derived from nature’s own pest-resistant compounds and are quite friendly to the environment. Giorgio employees participate in ongoing training to ensure proper implementation of our IPM program.”
Giorgio Fresh is also Mushroom Good Agricultural Practices, or MGAP, certified for all of its growing operations. The U.S. Mushroom industry, working through the American Mushroom Institute and in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has developed a MGAP audit. This audit establishes guidelines to reduce the chance of food-borne pathogens and other possible food-safety concerns.
“All of our mushroom-growing farms have passed the MGAP certification,” said Mr. Litvin. “We believe such audits are a necessary and significant step to improving food-safety standards across the entire agricultural industry.”
The company is also certified by the Safe Quality Food Institute, which uses the acronym SQFI for Safe Quality Food. Giorgio Fresh holds SQF Level 3 certification.
“Level 3 is the highest level of certification offered by SQFI,” said Mr. Litvin. “The Safe Quality Food Institute is the leader in providing the world’s most recognized and trusted food-safety and quality-certification program. SQFI is a division of the Food Marketing Institute, an association that conducts programs in public affairs, food safety, research, education and industry relations on behalf of its 1,500 member companies, which are food retailers and wholesalers in the United States and around the world.”
Giorgio Fresh sells to retail, wholesale, foodservice and industrial customers. Its distribution runs from Maine to Florida and west to Missouri and Minnesota. It also distributes in Texas and Arizona.
Giorgio representatives can offer suggestions to help grocers take advantage of industry trends, including the increasing consumer demand for mushrooms and the food-safety qualifications people demand.