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Phillips Mushroom Farms’ Maryland expansion nears completion

Kevin Donovan, national sales manager for Phillips Mushroom Farms in Kennett Square, PA, told The Produce News that the company is now strongly promoting the near completion of the expansion of its Warwick, MD, mushroom growing facility.

“The expansion will be completed by the beginning of November,” said Mr. Donovan. “It will enable us to double our production there to 200,000 pounds per week. The facility was completed only two years ago, so this expansion really speaks to the growing demand for mushrooms.”

Each room in the new high-tech facility is climate-controlled by computers, and each growing room is harvested multiple times a day, 24 hours a day.

“Our mushrooms are harvested at their optimum size,” said Mr. Donovan. “Pasteurized, uniformly inoculated substrate is loaded into specially designed, sanitized trucks for transport to the facility. A uniform substrate creates ideal growing conditions throughout the 10,000-square-foot growing room.”

The three-and-a-half-acre facility is under one roof. It is Mushroom Good Agricultural Practices-certified, and 20 percent more energy-efficient than previously.

Mr. Donovan said that the company is feeling the strong demand for fresh, sliced mushrooms at retail. People are cooking at home more in the current economy, and they want to duplicate the flavorful dishes they enjoy at restaurants.

“All the categories are strong today,” he said. “Shiitakes, browns and whites are all seeing significant growth. Browns, however, continue to be the strongest push in the industry, but the growth of whites is also strong.”

In the foodservice sector, Mr. Donovan said quick-serve and casual-type restaurants are driving demand on sliced and processed mushrooms. They account for virtually millions of pounds in sales annually.

“Foodservice operators are very concerned about food safety today, and many require specific certifications,” he said. “Buyers routinely ask for our certifications and they want to know where we’re going with product traceability. We’ve made a large commitment to our food-safety division with many new hires.”

He noted how the entire mushroom industry banded together in strong unity to bring mushroom safety to new levels. The company is also preparing for its upcoming Safe Quality Food, or SQF, certification.

Phillips Mushroom Farms participated in the National Mushroom Council’s “Go Pink” promotion as it does every year.

“The effort benefits the City of Hope, a leading cancer research treatment and education center, to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” said Mr. Donovan. “Phillips Mushroom Farms is packing eight-ounce mushrooms in pink trays with special pink labels. The Mushroom Council makes a sizeable donation to the City of Hope during the campaign.”

He added that the promotion helps bring more awareness to mushrooms and the product’s health and nutritional benefits, which have been reported to be helpful in preventing breast cancer.

Mr. Donovan added that the company is committed to growing more pesticide-free product.

Phillips Mushroom Farms produces a full range of conventional, gourmet and exotic mushrooms. Its line includes Oyster, Maitake, Beech, Enoki, Royal Trumpet and Pom Pom mushrooms.

The company was founded in the late 1920s by William Phillips, and is now in its third generation of family ownership and operation. State-of-the-art technology, commitment to marketing and a personal approach to its business have made Phillips Mushroom Farms a leading marketer of specialty mushrooms in the United States. The company distributes over 35 million pounds of specialty mushrooms annually.

“Mushroom sales are certainly strong and growing,” said Mr. Donovan. “We attribute the growth in demand to the leadership at the American Mushroom Institute and at the Mushroom Council. The efforts of these groups have really helped our industry.”