Phillips seeing growth in organic mushrooms
For the past couple of years, Phillips Mushroom Farms has seen exponential growth in the organic mushroom category. This has caused the company to add a new state-of-the-art facility dedicated to that production technique to go along with its older organic farms.
Kevin Donovan, national sales manager for the Kenneth Square, PA-based company, said Phillips has been offering organic mushrooms for about 15 years, but sales have really spiked the last two years. Today, its organic sales represent about 10 percent of total production with all its mushroom varieties participating in the sales uptick. “We are seeing growth in everything including specialty mushrooms, whites, brown, shiitakes, baby bellas, portobellos…everything we grow. The last two years, sales have gone up exponentially.”
He allowed that pandemic buying in 2020 may have had some impacts on sales of organic mushrooms, but he said the upward trend was evident well before the coronavirus upended norms in 2020.
Phillips has several farming locations with each being in the East, but it sells the mushrooms all over the country. Donovan said the organic category is no exception to the wide distribution with customers in every region of the country. He said organics are popular and the company has great customers in the Midwest and South as well as on both coasts. He said sales continue to expand and modern technology has allowed the farm to deliver high quality conventional and organic mushrooms even across the country. He said the high-tech production facilities utilizing optimum atmospheres produce great quality product with vacuum cooling, superior packaging and high-quality trucks delivering that product to the customer, no matter their location. At one point, mushrooms were more of a locally produced item, but Donovan said that is no longer a necessity.
He said there is some seasonality to the company’s organic production noting that eastern summertime temperatures produce greater pest populations, which, in turn, reduces yields. During the rest of the year, Phillips maintains steady production. He added that currently Phillips has optimum production, which does allow for promotion if retailers are so inclined. Typically, he noted, organic mushroom retail promotions are in-store events featuring a price break and bigger displays.
Phillips does have solid foodservice sales for its mushrooms, but Donovan said those sales are concentrated on conventional mushrooms with the entire organic supply a retail buy. For those organic consumers at retail, Phillips has converted all its organic trays to a 100 percent recycled plastic material. “We’ve tried recyclable papers and clamshells that haven’t work that well. This tray seems to work really well.”
Donovan said the organic mushrooms typically return a price premium of about 20 percent, which is necessary as yields are typically 20-25 percent below that of the conventional crop.