Monterey Mushrooms' Mike Stephan Provides an Overview of the Mushroom Market for the Past Year
WATSONVILLE, CA - From breakfast to dinner, mushrooms offer versatility and elevate my eating experiences on multiple levels. Being a trade member has its perks, as I get to keep an eye on the mushroom market and get a read on volume and quality even before the package reaches the shelf. Most recently, I linked up with Mike Stephan, Sales Director at Monterey Mushrooms, who gave me an overview of the mushroom market for the past year.
“Mushrooms have only one season: in season! As a year-round crop, we see steady sales/consumption throughout the year,” Mike began. “Our business tends to increase with Back to School (Fall–October) and continue to increase through the winter holidays, into the healthy lifestyle of January, and beyond Lent, Easter, Mother’s Day, and culminating with Father’s Day. Mushrooms are also an ideal Summer Grilling Item.”
Mike relayed that mushroom pricing at retail for most of 2021 remained flat, despite intense cost increases. Mushroom prices did start to rise come Q3–Q4 of 2021, as outlined in the graph below.
“The crop quality for mushrooms is significantly different than other commodities that have a single crop per season. Mushroom growers plant new crops every other day!” Mike imparted.
While Mike reported that growing inputs such as Wheat Straw and Cottonseed Hulls were relatively unchanged last year, the industry is currently having to adjust for a short supply of Peat Moss, which is an essential raw material used to store moisture for the crop. Despite this and weather challenges, IRI Scan Sales (MULO data) reported the second-best year since 2016 in terms of dollars and volume.
“In the spring of 2021, our farms in the southern states of Oklahoma and Texas had to deal with freezing temperatures for six days, which contributed to power outages and entire crops being lost and impacted our supply for six weeks,” Mike told me. “As an indoor crop, our outdoor composting operation is impacted the most by heavy rains. Every year, there seems to be some sort of weather issue impacting our crops. But, with farms in California, Mexico, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Florida, we are well positioned to deliver quality supplies year-round.”
The biggest challenge, as Mike stated, is in regard to labor.
“All fresh market mushrooms are hand harvested. Our lack of labor has impacted our ability to both plant and harvest our crops. Our yields are lower due to the lack of labor to pick three breaks (harvests) per crop,” he said.
In terms of variety growth, the share of brown mushrooms continues to increase in 2021. Total United States reports show a share of White Mushrooms at 52.4 percent and Baby Bellas at 29.9 percent. Leading retailers are reportedly at or approaching a 50/50 split.
As we continue into the second month of 2022 and see new market trends come to life, you can count on ANUK to bring you the latest.