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Incorporating Mushrooms into Pre-cooked Sectors: A Review

UMDIS PARTNERS

This post is also available in: English Russian Polish

For the mushroom industry, the Food and Drink Expo – such as the one held from 29th April to 1st May 2024 in Birmingham, United Kingdom – represents an opportunity to engage with a multitude of producers offering ready-made and pre-cooked products, as well as fresh mixtures, to gain insights into their perspectives on mushrooms. Additionally, it serves as a platform to observe the latest food trends and developments.

UMDIS Mushroom Agency attended the exhibition in the UK and held discussions with companies such as Presto Fresh Foods, Auga Group, Moving Mountains Foods, Harrys Country Kitchen, By Ruby, Wildly Tasty, and others, all of whom produce products containing mushrooms.

The primary insight gleaned – (apologies if it sounds overly psychological) – is that everything starts with perception, particularly within the management of these companies. Some of the companies UMDIS engaged with expressed that mushrooms are highly popular, with mushroom-infused products being their best-sellers. Conversely, others indicated that mushrooms are not favoured among their target consumers, resulting in their mushroom-inclusive products being less popular. It looks like the management` attitude changes a lot.

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Peter Bedborough, Commercial Executive at Kanes Foods Ltd (Presto Fresh Foods), elaborates to UMDIS that they specialise in mixtures of ingredients for quick meal preparation.

– We offer a variety of products, and our ‘Mushroom stir fry’ is our top seller, ranking as the second most popular product in our range. Given our partnerships with major supermarket chains such as Aldi and Lidl, we ensure that each store stocks 33 packages of our products, with 9 of them featuring mushrooms.” This particular product from Presto contains 28% mushrooms.

Bedborough notes that they are aware of British consumers’ preference for domestic mushrooms, although they procure mushrooms from both the UK and across Europe. Presto purchases whole mushrooms not sliced ones, as they can slice them themselves, thereby preserving freshness for a longer period.

In the realm of pre-cooked meals, mushrooms already have gained popularity. However, there are areas where mushroom producers can potentially work on:

  1. Increasing the percentage of mushrooms in products where they are already used, as the current percentage is usually less than 10%.
  2. Encouraging producers to incorporate mushrooms into a wider range of products and develop new mushroom-infused products, as typically only 1-4 products in their range contain mushrooms.
  3. Collaborating with producers of pre-cooked meals who currently do not incorporate mushrooms into their recipes at all.

Daryll Umali, Managing Director at Moving Mountains Foods, a major player in plant-based meat alternatives, informs UMDIS:

– Among the products showcased at the exhibition, we offer two types of products featuring mushrooms: plant-based beef burgers and plant-based pork meatballs. In both products, we use oyster mushrooms to impart a meaty texture similar to conventional meat.

Moving Mountains Foods produces a range of plant-based beef, chicken, fish, and pork products, with mushrooms featured in various forms, including sausages, mince, and non-chicken nuggets. However, the percentage of mushrooms used in these products is typically less than 10%.

Another prominent company in the pre-cooked meals sector, By Ruby, presents an array of products at the exhibition. Of their numerous offerings, only three include mushrooms: Coq Au Vin, Grass-Fed Beef Bourguignon, and Mushroom Risotto. Among these, mushrooms play a supporting role in two dishes, while they are the main ingredient in the Mushroom Risotto. However, the Mushroom Risotto contains only 8% mushrooms, predominantly button mushrooms, along with small amounts of dried oysters and porcini.

UMDIS also spoke with several producers of pre-cooked dishes, querying why they do not utilise mushrooms. For example, a pie and pre-cooked meal producer cited reasons which show the lack of awareness of the nutritional benefits of mushrooms, as well as some prejudices. These issues could potentially be addressed through effective marketing campaigns.

Harry Weston, Project Development Manager at Harrys Country Kitchen, states:

– We primarily cater to older consumers; they are our main target. Unfortunately, people over 60 tend to avoid mushrooms. They are perceived as more suited to younger generations.

So, the company offers just one product containing mushrooms, which was not showcased during the exhibition.

In contrast, Wildly Tasty, a company focusing on children and families, expresses enthusiasm for mushrooms, asserting to UMDIS:

  • We fail to understand why mushrooms are deemed unsuitable for children. Our children adore mushrooms!

One of their most popular products is with mushrooms – the Mushroom & Lentil Bolognese, containing chestnut mushrooms.  Although, like many other companies, the percentage of mushrooms could be increased, currently standing at 7%. Similarly, despite its popularity, Wildly Tasty produces only one product featuring mushrooms.

Auga Group, a notable participant in the exhibition, hails from Lithuania and includes Baltic Champ, the largest mushroom farm and compost yard in the Baltic countries. Their product range includes more mushroom-infused offerings compared to most other exhibitors, such as Buckwheat & Mushroom Grain Bowl, Green Curry Bowl, Red Curry Bowl, and Mushroom Soup, along with an unconventional breakfast option – “Buckwheat porridge with Mushrooms in Cream sauce.” However, the percentage of mushrooms in their products remains relatively low, for ex. the breakfast buckwheat containing just 1.2% mushrooms.

UMDIS thinks while mushrooms are visually appealing on package designs, consumers are often unaware that some companies, such as AMGA, have the advantage of using their own cultivated mushrooms. This could be leveraged as a strength, akin to a superpower, with appropriate communication.

Regarding food trends, UMDIS intends to share insights from the Food and Drink Expo in an upcoming publication.

Should you wish that UMDIS Mushroom Agency features your company, need assistance with mushroom production, or require marketing advice, please contact us at inna.ustilovskaja@gmail.com

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