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Phillips Mushroom Farms introduces organic white and brown mushrooms

Growing interest and demand for organic mushrooms means that Phillips Mushroom Farms is always working on new items to offer its strong and increasing organic customer base.

Kevin Donovan, national sales manager for the Kennett Square, PA-based mushroom producer, told The Produce News that it recently added15- and 20-ounce packs of organic white and brown mushrooms to its already extensive organic line.

“Sales of the smaller size packs in our line, such as the eight-ounce white and brown organic mushrooms, continue to increase in demand,” said Donovan. “Offering these popular staples in larger sizes to satisfy consumer needs was our next natural step.”

PhillipsbbellaorgBG In addition to white and browns, in both caps and sliced options, Phillips Mushroom Farms’ organic line includes specialties such as Shiitake, Beech, Maitake, Royal Trumpet, Pom and other varieties. Additionally, the company’s four-ounce Organic Gourmet Blend, a more recent addition to its line, which consists of sliced Baby Bello, Shiitake and Yellow Oyster mushrooms, continues to increase in sales.

“Every mushroom variety Phillips Mushroom Farms cultivates conventionally can be cultivated organically, including all the specialty varieties,” noted Donovan. “We continue to see increased demand for all organic options. Our customers look to us to help them expand their organic mushroom offerings because they’re constantly aware of organic sales’ increases in their produce departments.”

He added that the surge in consumer awareness and concerns about eating healthier, awareness of the many ways mushrooms can be combined with proteins for lower calorie and higher nutrition, along with increasing consumer knowledge that organics are grown without chemicals, is a win-win for organic mushrooms.

“Organic mushrooms meet all these criteria because they all represent the same type of customer,” said Donovan.

Phillips Mushroom Farms recently completed its new expansion at its Warwick, MD, facility. It is the fourth expansion at the facility, this time adding 80,000 square feet to the footprint.

“The new addition is nearly in full production,” Donovan said in early April. “This addition was built for the production of both conventional and organic mushrooms, but with the intention of converting it entirely to organic production when future demand dictates. When it’s in full production, the facility will produce about 750-pounds of mushrooms per week.”

The company, he added, is already working on plans for the next expansion to the facility, details of which will be announced in the future.

Despite the excitement related to the increased demand for mushrooms, and like nearly all produce categories, the industry continues to face challenges. Labor problems include high turnover rates and, at times, shortages.

“Labor for harvesting and packing is especially difficult to nail down for the long term,” said Donovan. “We’ll train supervisors for a year, and then suddenly they are moving on. It’s tough to get people to work weekends and put in extra time when the demand is there and extra money can be made. The economy is booming, and that means more jobs are available.”

He added that this situation has been ongoing for some time. All of Phillips Mushroom Farms’ employees are documented, and they all receive fair wages.

“The U.S. hasn’t increased the number of people it allows into the country to help fill the job voids,” Donovan noted.

Another challenge the mushroom industry faces today is that the cost of compost materials has nearly doubled this year because regions that produce straw and hay have experienced a lot of rain.

“This too puts a strain on profits, and it can reduce the quality of the mushrooms produced,” said Donovan. “Less mushrooms will be produced this summer, which is the result of the lower labor force as well as the lesser demand for mushrooms during hot weather. Demand is higher in the summer today than it used to be, but cool weather typically dictates the onset of strong and steady increases in sales.”

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