Fletcher Street, director of marketing and sales for Ostrom Mushroom Farms in Olympia, WA, told The Produce News that the company has introduced a new paper till package.
“Ostrom is a leader in innovative packaging in our industry,” said Ms. Street. “We have been packing and shipping our mushrooms in a recyclable paper till for three years. We moved into this till for two reasons: to move away from petroleum-based packaging, and because the fully printable surface allows us to communicate more effectively to the consumer about the nutritional benefits of mushrooms and to offer usage ideas.”
She noted that being located in the Pacific Northwest is additional inspiration because people in the area take sustainability very seriously.
“We also know that a lot of retailers don’t like recipe cards, posters and other materials that clutter up produce departments and can be a hazard if they’re scattered on the floor,” she said. “Therefore the best vehicle to get our message to consumers is on the package.”
Ostrom wanted to emphasize the nutritional value of mushrooms, and remind people that in addition to nutrients, mushrooms have antioxidants. Ms. Street cited a study led by Lawrence J. Cheskin at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, on how substituting mushrooms for beef in a test lunch affected energy intake, fat intake, palatability, appetite, satiation and satiety in normal-weight, overweight and obese adults.
“Based on the success of those results, Dr. Cheskin has expanded the study to more people and a longer duration,” said Ms. Street. “Those results should come out at the end of this year.”
Mushrooms, she added, are great in helping to reduce sodium intake, and they help people walk away from a meal feeling satisfied.
“And the flavor fits so many different cuisines,” she said. “They have a great bite and texture and the offer the umami factor that provides the mouth with a feeling of satisfaction.”
Ostrom Mushroom Farms is introducing naturally vitamin D-enhanced mushrooms. The launch includes special signage and point-of-sale materials and ad pricing.
“The goal is to get consumer awareness of this new product, especially that mushrooms are the only produce item with vitamin D,” said Ms. Street. “All Ostrom’s packaged sliced white and Crimini mushrooms now contain 100 percent of the daily [recommended dietary allowance] of vitamin D, 400 international units per three-ounce serving.”
She explained that mushrooms contain a plant sterol called ergosterol, which converts sunlight into vitamin D much the same as human skin converts sunlight to vitamin D.
“At Ostrom’s we expose mushrooms to an ultraviolet light for a matter of seconds,” she said. “There is nothing added to the mushroom to help them absorb the light, it is all entirely natural.”
Ms. Street is the vice chairman of the Mushroom Council, and she said Ostrom Mushroom Farms “finds the information that the council provides to be of a caliber and breadth that would be unachievable for us to produce on our own, as well as the level of category research and foodservice connections.”
The Mushroom Council is currently conducting a My Plate contest. My Plate is the model developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that takes the place of the previous food pyramid.
“The main thrust of the My Plate contest is to show how mushrooms fit perfectly into the vegetable portion of the plate, which is the largest portion,” she said. “The contest challenges people to express their creativity and to help demonstrate how mushrooms add glamour and excitement to basic meals.”