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Phillips to complete new facility expansion in time for holidays

In past years mushroom demand has traditionally been lighter in the summer months as compared to the rest of the year. But now the growing mushroom demand is having a positive effect on summer sales.

Kevin Donovan, national sales manager for Phillips Mushroom Farms, based in Kennett Square, PA, told The Produce News that demand is good and is holding through this summer.Phillips-four-oounce-Organic-Gourmet-Blend

“No doubt, we’ll feel the normal strong increases as we head into fall and then the holidays, but good summer sales is proof that people are including mushrooms in their typical meals,” said Donovan.

 In order to keep up with the growth demand for mushrooms, Phillips Mushroom Farms is again expanding its Warwick, MD, facility.

Opened a few years ago, the new cutting-edge mushroom farm has been expanded a couple of times. The company is anticipating the current expansion will be completed in time for holiday production.

“We’re finishing off the fourth building with this expansion, which will add 80,000 square feet to the building,” said Donovan. “When it’s completed the facility should be able to produce about a million pounds of mushrooms every week. It will be the largest single growing facility in the U.S.”

The building was originally designed to produce both conventional and organic mushrooms. The current addition will produce organics as the company is seeing strong growth in the category.

Donovan said that when he was exhibiting at the Organic Produce Show in California in July, people he spoke with throughout the event said “Wow, people are talking about mushrooms.”

“Mushrooms are a strong trend, and it’s only going to grow,” he said. “Everyone — distributors, retailers, foodservice operators and others — needs to have them.”

He likened the demand to how avocados and kiwifruit grew quickly from being considered exotic fruits to becoming mainstream.

“These items exploded in a short amount of time,” stressed Donovan, “and mushrooms are doing the same thing.”

He attributes much of the strong and increasing demand to the Mushroom Council, whose initiatives have brought not only the nutritional and health benefits to the forefront of media outlets and ultimately consumers, but also to its The Blend initiative.

“Blending mushrooms with meat proteins is one of the smartest things that has been introduced in the food industry,” said Donovan. “Blending decreases fat and calories, improves flavor and increases all of the nutritional benefits that mushrooms offer.”

The company has a blended burger product that is now being used at colleges and universities in the country.

Donovan added that whatever initiatives the Mushroom Council engages in for Mushroom Month, Phillips Mushroom Farms will participate.

Whites are still leading the way in mushroom demand, but Donovan said browns and exotics are spurring a lot of interest these days.

Organic mushrooms are growing at a steady rate right alongside of conventional options. Phillips Mushroom Farms introduced its Organic Gourmet Blend in a four-ounce pack about a year ago, and it was an instant success.

“The Organic Gourmet Blend combines sliced Baby Bellas, sliced Shitakes and Yellow Oyster mushrooms, giving consumers a mix of their favorite varieties in an organic option,” said Donovan. “Making it even more exciting is that we obtained our food-safety certification on Yellow Oyster Mushrooms last year, turning the item into a win-win for customers who want both organic and food-safety certification.”