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Four things to know about mushrooms

The North American mushroom market is expected to be worth US$3.51 billion by 2027

Shutterstock/Rebecca Fondren PhotoShutterstock/Rebecca Fondren Photo

According to Research and Markets, the North American mushroom market accounted for US$1.85 billion in 2018 and will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.7% between 2019 to 2027. By 2027, it’s predicted to be worth US$3.51 billion.

Time to get familiar with this trendy, healthy ingredient …

 

STYLES FOR MILES
White, cremini and portabella are the most popular mushrooms consumed in Canada, according to Marianne
Muth, project coordinator for Mushrooms Canada. But specialty mushrooms such as shiitake, oyster, king oyster, maitake and enoki are quickly gaining popularity. Laura Mortimer, produce manager for Alberta-based Blush Lane Organic Market, says the diversity of mushrooms available today is in response to customers pushing their culinary boundaries. “We now carry an extra eight lines of gourmet mushrooms and work with three new small-scale growers of specialty mushrooms,” she says, noting Blush Lane’s top-selling specialty mushrooms are pink oyster, chanterelle, chestnut and morels.

A FUNGUS AMONG US
Mushrooms grow naturally in forests, at the base of trees and on wood. In ancient times, Romans, Greeks and Chinese cultures consumed mushrooms for medicinal purposes, both for strength and to improve their health. But it wasn’t until the 1700s that mushrooms were first cultivated for culinary consumption in underground quarries. Nowadays, mushrooms are grown indoors, year-round on a substrate such as peat moss.

MORE MUSHROOMS IN MORE PRODUCTS
The growing popularity of meat-free diets has prompted companies to develop innovative plant-based products using mushrooms. Pennsylvania-based Giorgio Foods, for instance, has created a jerky using portabella mushrooms. “Mushrooms have that special ‘umami’ taste quality that’s delicious, savoury and meaty,” says Angela Crouse, business manager at Giorgio Foods. “Portabella mushrooms lend themselves well to being a meat substitute.” But mushrooms aren’t just a substitute for meat—they can complement it, too. Producers like Applegate Organics have created a “blended burger” patty made up of meat (beef or turkey) and mushrooms. Blended meat products appeal to flexitarians and eco-conscious consumers aiming to reduce their meat consumption.

As for adaptogenic mushrooms, they’re increasingly being incorporated into products such as teas, coffees, lattes and even fudge. Digs Dorfman, founder and co-owner of Toronto grocery store The Sweet Potato, estimates the number of products offering medicinal benefits from mushrooms has increased by 300% at his store in the past five years. “We have many items in supplements including mushroom powders, which get added to smoothies and mushroom teas,” Dorfman explains. “People who are interested in the latest health trends seem to be our biggest customers for mushroom supplements, and that includes a lot of fitness buffs and people in the 35 to 50 age range.”

THEY’RE GOOD FOR YOU
Mushrooms are high in protein, low in fat and are a source of B complex vitamins, minerals, fibre and vitamin D. The ancient healing properties of medicinal mushrooms have also recently returned to the spotlight. “Millennials and gen Z are engaging with mushrooms for culinary and health and wellness reasons,” says Shelley Balanko, senior vice-president of The Hartman Group. Adaptogenic mushrooms, often used in herbal medicine, have become especially popular. Trendy adaptogenic mushrooms include reishi, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties; chaga, which boosts energy and supports digestion; and cordyceps, which improves energy, libido and stamina. The Hartman Group’s study “Functional Food and Beverage and Supplements 2020” reveals 37% of consumers are interested in adding medicinal/adaptogenic mushrooms to their diet.

This article appeared in Canadian Grocer‘s September-October 2020 issue.

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