Kevin Donovan, national sales manager for Phillips Mushroom Farms in Kennett Square, PA, told The Produce News that the company is currently in the process of developing some frozen mushroom products for the retail market.
“We’re testing items such as fire roasted Portabellas, but packaged for the frozen foods departments,” Donovan explained. “But we are also keenly aware of the mushroom swapability initiative that the Mushroom Council launched and that is having a major impact on the mushroom industry. For this reason we are conferring with nutritionists that work for retailers and letting them know about the nutritional and health benefits of replacing a portion of protein with mushrooms. They, in turn, can put the information in company newsletters and emails.”
Phillips Mushroom Farms completed its expansion project at its Warwick, MD, facility earlier this year. It now produces half a million pounds of white mushrooms per week at the facility.
Donovan noted that while brown mushrooms, such as Portabellas and Baby Bellas, are definitely growing in popularity and consequent demand, the white category still leads the overall sales in mushrooms.
“The facility is fully operational and in full production,” Donovan noted. “We expanded it once before, but the recent expansion has enlarged the facility to approximately 500,000 square feet of growing space. Every room in the cutting edge facility is climate controlled by computers, and each room is harvested multiple times a day, 24 hours a day, so mushrooms are always picked at their optimum size. The newly enlarged facility is three-and-a-half acres under one roof in size and is Mushroom Good Agricultural Practices- and Safe Quality Foods-certified. It is also 20 percent more energy efficient.”
During the past couple of years the mushroom industry faced some challenges procuring substrates, the bulk nutrients, or mediums, that are used to grow mushrooms. Shortages caused prices to increase. Donovan said that this situation has leveled off and is, at least for now, no longer a major problem.
“We have enough growing medium now, but we’re battling record heat in the east,” he said. “Mushrooms grow indoors, so the temperatures in the growing rooms can be controlled. But that compost coming in from the outdoor heat can cause some problems. Crop production is down compared to last year due to the heat, and we’re not yet into August. We don’t know how long this will last.”
Phillips offers a full line of all of the conventional popular, gourmet and exotic mushrooms. It also offers an extensive organic line consists of white mushrooms, browns, such as Portabella and Baby Bella, and specialty mushrooms including Shiitake, Maitake, Beech, Pom Pom and Royal Trumpet varieties.
“And we offer combo packs of organic specialty and brown mushrooms,” said Donovan. “These combo packs provide different textures and flavors, but they go well together and are great in many recipes.”
Donovan noted that new customers for organic mushrooms are emerging, and most of them are in the retail sector. He said that mainstream organic retailers as well as mainstream conventional retail customers have started to push more organic products in their stores.