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Mother Earth sees big upswing in organic mushroom demand

By
Keith Loria

Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms is a fifth-generation farm that has decades of experiencing growing mushrooms. The company transitioned to organic growing in 1989 and was one of the first commercial mushroom farms to make the change.

“We have a heritage and a legacy of being an organic mushroom farm,” said Mark Kreiner, outside sales coordinator for Mother Earth. “Over the last few years, the family decided to broaden and increase offerings in the conventional side, and we’ve seen increases in both of those areas this year.”

Headquartered in Landenberg, PA, the company now has two separate, 100-percent organic growing divisions in the Pennsylvania towns of West Grove and Oxford.

Its organic offerings include white, Crimini, Portabella and Shiitake, as well as dried organic mushrooms.

Since the pandemic began, demand has continued to increase in the fresh mushroom category. Kreiner cited figures released by the National Mushroom Council that showed the mushroom category soaring 23.5 percent in dollar growth over the past two months, with organic dollar sales increasing 19.1 percent.

“We’ve been fortunate that we have a diverse portfolio of customers — retail, foodservice, home delivery, contract manufacturing — so when foodservice business declined in the early days of the pandemic, we were able to rebound with our other classes of trade,” he said. “So, we saw a huge uptick in our business at retail and the home delivery level as more people went home to cook indoors.”

He believes the demand is driven not only by the great taste, but the fact that more consumers view mushrooms as a great substitute for ground proteins because of their healthy attributes.

“Organics are still a small part of the whole mushroom category, but one that’s growing and gaining traction every day,” Kreiner said. “We’ve seen a lot of people gravitate to organics since COVID-19 began.”

The company was forced to reduce some of its mushroom beds early in 2020 but things have been back to normal since late spring.

“We have been very fortunate that our labor force has remained healthy and our logistics team is healthy, so we haven’t been as impacted as some of the other growers in the area, and it’s helped us sustain our volume,” Kreiner said. “We have a quality product and offer great customer service, which we have been able to hang our hat on over five generations of farming.”

November through January is considered a peek mushroom consumption period, and Mother Earth is prepared to meet the demand for organic mushrooms expected.

“We will see volumes really increase for the holidays, especially this year,” Kreiner said. “We are seeing mushroom varieties that used to be very niche becoming more mainstream.”

For example, in 2020, the company opened up retail packaging for a mushroom medley that is a blend of yellow oyster shitake and sliced Baby Bella. It also introduced a new Royal Trumpet organic mushroom.

“These niche products are starting to become more mainstream as consumers learn more about what they are about,” Kreiner said. “These are very nutrient-rich, so consumers look to them from a health and wellness standpoint.”

Looking toward 2021, Mother Earth is uncertain about what they will be able to do because of the pandemic, but it is always looking at new opportunities and considering adding new varieties to its product line.

“We will always look to new items or a new packaging concept to meet consumer demand,” Kreiner said.

 

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