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Giorgio Fresh’s Bill Litvin projects record-breaking year for mushroom industry

“Giorgio Fresh Co. became a certified organic grower on March 11, 2004,” said Bill Litvin, vice president of sales and national account manager for the Temple, PA-based grower and shipper of fresh mushrooms.

GiorgioOrganic-1“We are certified by PCO [Pennsylvania Certified Organic]. Giorgio is one of the largest growers of organic mushrooms in the country,” he added.

Litvin said that the company conducts agricultural and processing operations in accordance with the standards of the National Organic Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“These standards represent the highest organic production and handling standards in the world,” he noted.

Giorgio Fresh’s wide range of organic mushroom products include white whole, white sliced, baby bella, portabella caps, sliced portabellas and Shiitake mushrooms. Its organic items are produced at its farms in Berks County, PA.

“We grow our mushrooms in a fully organic substrate without artificial fertilizers or sewage sludge,” said Litvin. “Giorgio Fresh is leading the way in Integrated Pest Management. Our practices include non-chemical and natural biological pest control techniques, which limit the use of synthetic pesticides. We do not bio-engineer our mushrooms or use ionizing radiation. Our operations must pass stringent inspections to ensure that we continue to meet USDA Organic standards.”

Giorgio Fresh’s customer profile covers the full spectrum of users, including retailers, wholesalers, foodservice operators and industrial customers. It distributes from Maine to Florida, into the Midwest, including Minnesota and Missouri, and as far west as Iowa. It also has a joint venture in Mexico, which ships into Texas.

Litvin said that the company is experiencing double-digit sales increases in its organic line so far in 2013.

“Based on these huge increases, we do not feel that organic sales have been impacted by the economic recession,” he said. “Our organic sales continue to increase thanks to our sales strategies.”

“The mushroom category in general is fortunate to not have felt the effects of the downed economy in the U.S.,” Litvin continued. “Throughout this downturn, the mushroom category continued to see high demand and sustained growth. According to the latest shipment report from the Mushroom Council, through the end of April of this year there was a 5.2 percent increase in mushroom shipments in the country, compared to the same time period in 2012. The mushroom category will have a record-breaking year in 2013 for the greatest annual shipment increment in its history.”

In late 2012, Giorgio Fresh Co. transitioned the Modern Mushroom fresh mushroom business into the Giorgio family of brands. Giorgio now manages Modern’s packing facility in Chester County, PA, and purchases the mushrooms from Modern’s growing operations. The Modern sales and customer service teams became a part of the Giorgio team. Both the “Modern Farms” and “Green Giant Fresh” brands continue to be in the market.

Litvin noted the current strong trend in the mushroom category, which is currently being promoted by the Mushroom Council.

“It is the idea of ‘Swapability,’” he said. “Consumers are encouraged to eat healthier by swapping out an ingredient in a standard meal with mushrooms, or using mushrooms as a topping. This can include topping a burger with a portabella mushroom, or chopping up mushrooms and combining them with meat to create a unique burger”.

“There are endless possibilities on how consumers can eat healthier by encouraging them to ‘Swap It or Top It,’ as the Mushroom Council promotes. Consumers are responding with an eagerness to find new ways to consume mushrooms at every meal,” he said.