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Phillips Mushroom's laser-focused customer service

By
Keith Loria

Phillips Mushroom Farms has been a leader in growing mushrooms in Kennett Square, PA since 1927, and is known for its stellar reputation.

“The short shelf life of mushrooms requires a very well managed cold-chain, and excellent rotation on the store level. By working closely with our partners, we try to strike the right balance of stocked shelves, but quick turnover to ensure freshness,” said Sean Steller, director of business development for the company. “High quality, consistent supply, and laser-focus on customer service and support are secrets to success.”mushrooms

Another key to the company’s long-lasting success is its investment in food safety and process improvement.

“You can grow mushrooms in your basement, but to grow and harvest the quantity and quality required by today’s consumer, increasingly high-quality standards must be enforced from the farm to the packinghouse,” Steller said. “We continue to focus on this by building new, innovative growing facilities, designed for the future of mushroom cultivation.”

Mushrooms continue to grow in popularity as consumers learn more about the nutritional benefits, flavor, and sustainability story. 2021 was a challenging year due to supply chain issues and a general mushroom shortage across the industry.

“The shortage in the fall of 2021 forced some restaurants to reduce mushroom usage on menus, and we are still working to regain confidence in the market and push the momentum back in the right direction,” Steller said. “2022 started well, but inflation appears to be impacting consumption as consumers tighten their grocery budget.”

In the most recent data, only 52 percent of households eat mushrooms regularly; therefore, the biggest opportunity for Phillips Mushroom Farms remains adding new consumers who have never tried mushrooms, or haven’t been exposed to innovative cooking techniques like the Blend.

“The Mushroom Council is actively working on great campaigns such as Feed Your Immune System to help educate consumers about the health benefits of mushrooms,” Steller said.

At the retail level, the company is seeing success adding larger retail packages in some regions.

“Organic specialty mushrooms such as Maitake, Lion’s Mane and Oyster are really popular as consumers are actively looking for adaptogenic mushrooms,” Steller said. “Innovative promotions such as mushroom discounts near the meat section can help remind consumers about the Blend. Blending mushrooms with meat can help reduce cost, improve sustainability impact, and increase nutrition and flavor at the same time. Traditionally produce and meat sections are completely separate, but this is a great opportunity to help guide consumers toward this combination.”

Labor is an ongoing challenge due to the fragile nature of mushrooms. Steller said that using too much pressure during harvesting can lead to bruising and discoloration in the days that follow.

“Mushroom harvesting is a highly skilled occupation that can take weeks to months of training to learn the details,” he said. “Other challenges include inflationary pressure of raw materials, freight, and uncertainty. We are always working to improve efficiency, but the rapid cost increases across inputs puts pressure on business operations and impacts the price on the shelves for consumers.”

The Phillips team is always focused on expanding organic mushroom production and increasing mushroom consumption across the country.

“In 2022, we opened 250,000 square feet of new growing space in a state-of-the-art facility in Jennersville, PA,” Steller said. “This new facility will help keep pace with the overall trend of growing mushroom demand, while at the same time improving efficiency, consistency, and mushroom quality. We are very excited to have this farm fully operational for the 2022 holiday season and look forward to future expansions of this site.”

Keith Loria

Keith Loria

About Keith Loria  |  email

A graduate of the University of Miami, Keith Loria is a D.C.-based award-winning journalist who has been writing for major publications for close to 20 years on topics as diverse as real estate, food and sports. He started his career with the Associated Press and has held high editorial positions at magazines aimed at healthcare, sports and technology. When not busy writing, he can be found enjoying time with his wife, Patricia, and two daughters, Jordan and Cassidy.

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