To-Jo Fresh Mushrooms Inc., located in Avondale, PA, recently introduced Traditional Mushroom Sautee with Butter, Salt and Pepper. Paul Frederic, senior vice president of sales and marketing for To-Jo told The Produce News that the item is a microwavable mushroom product in retail-size packs. The company has entered the product in the Produce Marketing Association’s Impact Award competition.
“The new item contains seven ounces of sliced mushrooms that are ready to put directly into the microwave oven,” said Mr. Frederic. “All-natural seasonings and herbs are added to the pre-cleaned mushrooms. Users simply microwave for just under four minutes for fully prepared mushrooms in a delicious sauce.” He added that the new microwavable mushrooms are the perfect answer for today’s consumer in that they offer superior taste and convenience.
To-Jo Fresh Mushrooms is a fourth-generation family-owned company that grows and distributes a full line of fresh-mushrooms and mushroom products. It offers white, brown and specialty mushrooms; gourmet, dried mushrooms; wild mushrooms; and value-added processed mushrooms for retail supermarkets, produce and foodservice distributors and operators.
Mr. Frederic said that specialty mushroom sales are showing good growth at retail, led by Shiitake and Oyster Mushrooms.
“The demand from the foodservice segment is not as strong, however,” he added. “We are seeing sales to higher-end white-tablecloth restaurants are somewhat soft. The fast, casual restaurants continue to be strong, but demand for specialty items from this segment is limited.”
Food safety has been and continues to be one of the highest priorities at To-Jo Fresh Mushrooms. Mr. Frederic said that the company recently achieved its Safe Quality Food, or SQF, Level-3 certification.
“We are one of the very few mushroom companies to have achieved this,” said Mr. Frederic. “In addition, we are well ahead of all milestones for the Produce Traceability Initiative. Both SQF Level 3 and PTI have required substantial commitment on the part To-Jo management.”
Locally grow is also an important issue and concern with several of To-Jo Fresh Mushrooms’ retail customers. Mr. Frederic said that the company is responding to this trend by supplying its customers with placards to be placed over the mushroom display to tell consumers about its products and where they are produced.
“We also inform customers about our company and the local aspect through the use of a QR [Quick Response] code on our top-selling items,” he added. “Consumers can scan the code with their smart phones and be redirected to our web site, which provides information, recipes and much more information.”
Mr. Frederic said that he is seeing little economic growth and little or no growth in jobs in the United States today.
“And with interest rates at close to zero, the government has limited tools available to affect the economy,” he said. “Accordingly, I do not expect significant growth in the specialty category.”
Strong trends in mushrooms continue to be in the brown category. Mr. Frederic said that Baby Bellas are showing strong growth, especially at the retail level.
“Consumers today are more focused on easy-to-prepare foods,” he said. “They are using the Internet and social media more heavily for recipes and meal solutions, and they are becoming more aware of the nutritional value of mushrooms, such as the vitamin D and antioxidant values. Many consumers are using mushrooms as a meat substitute as a part of a healthy and weight-focused diet.”
To-Jo continues to move forward with the land development stages of its new 133-acre site. It plans to break ground in August on a state-of-the-art growing facility.