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Giorgio predicts continuing mushroom growth

Giorgio Fresh Co. is pleased by the strong mushroom market and foresees continuing growth in the future.

“Mushroom Council data show that mushroom sales are very strong,” said Bill Litvin, regional sales and national account manager for Giorgio Fresh in Temple, PA. “We think the continued growth of the mushroom category has several key contributing factors. They include more media exposure to the use of mushrooms, education about the health benefits that mushrooms offer, that mushrooms are an affordable produce option and because consumers are using more fresh produce items.”

Giorgio Fresh is a leading producer of fresh, value-added and processed mushrooms. The company was founded in 1928, when Pietro Giorgi built his first mushroom houses in Temple, which was the beginning of a proud and long-standing tradition at Giorgio Foods of only growing mushrooms of the highest-possible quality.

The third generation of Giorgio family members carries on that tradition still today at the company.

“Giorgio’s tradition of excellence continued decade by decade from the 1920s through the 1950s, when we added a cannery to meet the demands of the supermarket industry,” said Mr. Litvin. “In the 1970s, the company opened a modern facility to produce frozen mushrooms and a broad variety of frozen prepared foods.”

As the company continues to grow, it is investing considerable time and energy into the innovative Japanese management philosophy called Kaizen. “This program stresses the value of seeking continuous improvement in everything we undertake — from growing and processing to service and delivery,” said Mr. Litvin. “It is our obsession with detail and perfection that has led us to set the industry standard for quality and reliability. Today, Giorgio is the second-largest grower and shipper of fresh mushrooms in the U.S., as well as a major supplier of a large variety of frozen products.”

Mr. Litvin said that Giorgio Fresh will be exhibiting Nov. 7-9 at the New York Produce Show & Conference at Booth 2109.

“Last year’s show was a great experience for us — and much better than I expected,” he said. “It’s a challenge to fit another show into the already-busy show schedule, and scheduling the New York Produce Show right after [the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit Convention & Exposition] was a surprise to us. However, it worked out extremely well in that it attracted a great audience.”

A few years ago, the mushroom industry, including Giorgio Fresh, banded together to develop a unified food-safety initiative designed specifically for mushrooms because of the unique way the products are grown.

“Giorgio is [Safe Quality Food] level 3 certified,” said Mr. Litvin.

In 2010, the mushroom market value in the United States reached the $1 billion mark, and all signs indicate that the category will continue its rapid growth. Mr. Litvin said that consumers are becoming more educated about the numerous health and nutritional benefits derived from consuming mushrooms. “Nutrition makes mushrooms very appealing. They’re low in calories, low in sodium and rich in nutrients, including B vitamins and minerals like potassium. And they’re loaded with antioxidants. They have a lot of essential amino acids, so they’re a pretty good source of protein. Mushrooms are one of the few food sources of vitamin D.”

The unique umami factor — the fifth flavor that humans can taste — also adds a lot of interest to all kinds of recipes utilizing mushrooms. “That savory flavor and the texture makes mushrooms a great addition to a wide variety of dishes, especially meatless entrees,” said Mr. Litvin. “Mushrooms have a lot of substance.”

In October of last year, Giorgio Fresh completed an expansion of its fresh pack facility to handle additional customer demand that Mr. Litvin expects will help the firm continue its strong growth rate into the future.