Mushrooms strong despite loss of foodservice in pandemic

Published Tuesday, September 1, 2020
by Chris Kroger, Produce News

Despite the bottom dropping out of the restaurant industry as businesses closed in response to the spread of the coronavirus this spring, mushroom companies saw volume drop just 2% for the year that ended June 30.

The U.S. Department reports that 816, 367 pounds of mushrooms were shipped for the year ending in June, and the value of sales rose 3%, to $1.15 billion. The department released its annual reported Aug. 31.

The average price for agaricus (including white buttons) and specialty mushrooms was $1.41 per pound, a 7-cent increase from the previous season.  

“After the initial shock to retail supply chains, mushroom demand from retailers increased,” according to a news release from the American Mushroom Institute, Avondale, Pa. “Consumers adhering to stay-at-home orders were left to consume more meals at home, which included fresh mushrooms.

“While some restaurants have re-opened with limited capacity, the reduction in foodservice demand continues to impact growers,” according to the release. 

Mushroom growers, who “plant” every day, cut back to deal with lost foodservice sales.

“When the Coronavirus hit, no one could have foreseen the markets’ unpredictability,” American Mushroom Institute President Rachel Roberts said in the release. “To adjust to the uncertainty, mushroom growers made the decision to scale back crops, in order to sustain the health of their businesses.”

U.S. sales for fresh market agaricus mushrooms totaled 741 million pounds, a 1% drop. Sales of processed agaricus mushrooms, however, dropped 14%. 

Portabella and crimini (brown mushrooms) volume increased 2.6 % and sales in dollars rose 3.6%

Specialty mushroom sales were $67.4 million, a 2% increase.

Consumer demand at retail has been “incredibly strong” since the pandemic began, according Mark Lang, a University of Tampa (Fla.) associate professor, who conducted a survey for the American Mushroom Institute in April.

“According IRI data from April to July, mushroom sales were not only strong, they were among the most consistently strong during this time,” Lang said in the release. “Our weekly sales increases when compared to same week 2019 never dipped below 21% during that time. Only two other items shared that benchmark – oranges and limes.”

The survey, “Fresh Mushroom Attitudes and Behaviors During COVID-19,” suggests demand will continue. The survey of 750 shoppers found that 25% of consumers plan to cook more with fresh mushrooms “after things get back to normal,” and 63% plan to cook “about the same,” according to the release. 

“While grocers are currently experiencing this increased demand, it’s probable these new consumer preferences will also carry over to foodservice as restaurants work to rebuild,” Lang said in the release.


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