Natural Foods Merchandiser

Do you have shroom for improvement?

I recently attended a birthday party that I needed to cook for, and I wanted to make something really special. So I found this great recipe for stuffed crimini mushrooms, and they turned out to be fantastic. Everyone raved about them and how the rich, savory flavor made them want to keep going back for more (everyone except my oldest daughter who hates mushrooms). It seems that mushrooms are one of those produce items that create this sort of response.

So where does that leave you in your produce department? Of course you have to have mushrooms, but do you know who's buying them in your store? Do you limit your customers' choices due to personal preference, past knowledge, old buying patterns or perceived lack of space? If you're like most stores, you would probably say that white button mushrooms are your top seller. Fifty-four percent of folks who answered questions for a recent produce survey agreed. What do you think was the next most popular mushroom? Shitake? Crimini?

If you guessed crimini, you'd be in the right family. The survey showed portabellas coming in second with a quarter of respondents saying they bought the giant crimini mushroom. That's up 20 percent from last year.

Are you carrying sliced mushrooms? No? Why not? Is it the packaging? Do you harbor feelings that your customers should be able to slice up their own mushrooms? Believe me, I've heard it before from plenty of produce managers. This may change your mind: Of those surveyed, 76 percent bought sliced mushrooms last year. You might be missing an opportunity. And your customers might be going somewhere else to get their sliced mushrooms.

As you have seen in many of the organic consumer profiles that have come out in the last few years, today's organic customer likes convenience, and sliced mushrooms fit right into that lifestyle.

Do you know how your customers are using their mushrooms once they buy them? It may make a difference how you display them.

When asked how they use mushrooms (participants could choose more than one):

  • 88 percent in a recipe
  • 52 percent as a side dish
  • 44 percent in a salad
  • 22 percent as an appetizer
  • 22 percent as a main dish
  • And —get this —17 percent said as a snack. That's a new one for me. Now, how can you use this information?

    First, I'd reevaluate my mushroom selection. Track how the mushrooms you're carrying now are selling, and then ask your distributor for a deal on something different for your case. As you know, today's organic customers like deals and respond to sales. Why not try a sliced mushroom or packaged crimini to see if you can generate some interest?

    Nervous about mushrooms drying out in your bulk display? Try this idea that I came up with for a client who was having shrink troubles with mushrooms: Buy a few of the clear sample domes with 6-inch holes and a top you can turn open or closed. They come large and small so you can buy one that fits your sales or display. Fill them with your bulk mushrooms. During the day, leave the hole open so your customers can buy them easily. These domes keep the air off your mushrooms while providing easy access. We've reduced mushroom shrink by 80 percent with this system in some stores.

    Next, make a big deal about some of the benefits of mushrooms. I went to and found these interesting facts:

  • Researchers at the Pennsylvania State Mushroom Research Laboratory found that mushrooms contain significant levels of ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant.
  • Ergothioneine is heat-stable, meaning it is present in both raw and cooked mushrooms.
  • Portabella and crimini mushrooms have the most ergothioneine, followed closely by white mushrooms.
  • Lastly, give people some new ideas to help them get excited about mushrooms. Set up an end-cap with some chard, shallots, green garlic and portabellas. Or, set up a grill in the department with portabellas and asparagus to get the grilling season officially started. Pile charcoal, and stack cases of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and beer right alongside, and you've taken the guesswork out of a weekend dinner.

    I'm sure you'll see your sales increase; it just depends on how much time you're willing to invest in this endeavor and how mushroom you're willing to free up for display.

    For scrumptious mushroom recipes, go to

    Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIX/number 4/p. 24

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