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Phillips Mushroom Farms continues focus on organic category

Based in the mushroom capital of the World; Kennett Square, PA, Phillips Mushroom Farms is a leading supplier of a full line of mushroom varieties in both conventional and organic options.

National Sales Manager, Kevin Donovan, told The Produce News that the company’s full line will be on display at its booth, No. 1856, at the 2019 PMA Fresh Summit in Anaheim, CA, on Oct. 17-19.

“Our full sales and marketing team will be at the expo,” said Donovan. “Although we will feature our entire line, we will be focusing strongly on the organic category and promoting newer organic products.”

Phillips-four-oounce-Organic-Gourmet-Blend He also pointed out that as the mushroom industry heads into the fall and winter holidays, prices are expected to be higher than last year.

“For all of the typical reasons — supply and demand, increases in production costs, labor shortages and more — prices will increase this season,” said Donovan. “We expect it to be a good season quality wise, but with higher prices expected.”

As customer contracts run out, those customers will feel the increase. But until then contract prices will, of course, be honored.

Besides cost increases in production, there is also a current mushroom shortage.

“Because of the many problems the industry has and continues to face, some mushroom producers have shut their doors in the recent past,” explained Donovan. “They simply could not survive. Demand for mushrooms is increasing, and I don’t see it being met by production. That’s not boding well for the outlook on prices going forward.”

He added that the company anticipates price increases of as much as five percent going forward. Foodservice customers, he pointed out, could see between a three- and five-percent increase in mushroom costs.

“Our hope is that production will be good,” said Donovan. “At Phillips Mushroom Farms, production is okay and we’re now planning for increased production from our farms for the holiday season.”

Another near constant challenge is having enough labor to harvest the increased production. He said the company hires as many laborers as possible and it has a good assessment of its labor situation as the holidays draw closer.

“Harvesters pack into eight-ounce trays directly from picking,” he explained. “Larger mushrooms are also packed directly into trays. But these need more attention and so they take longer. Following this process, we randomly pick into baskets, typically for slicing.”

The growing medium for mushrooms has also been a thorn in the side of the mushroom industry in recent years. This year, however, it may have a bit of a reprieve. Donovan said the company is looking at new composting materials, such as hay, and things are looking better than last year.

“We are working with it now,” he said. “It’s a completely different product than we used last year. It needs formula changes, so it’s taking a little time to work with it to get it to perfection.

“This new resource is closer to us than where we were previously sourcing it from,” he continued. “Transportation costs to move the medium rise when it’s shipped from further distances.”

Phillips Mushroom Farms keeps a firm finger on the pulse of consumer trends, movements and lifestyle changes. For this reason, it continually increases its production of organic mushrooms, which grows in demand continually.

Donovan said that the company can produce any mushroom it grows conventionally in an organic option.

Helping to meet the increase in demand in both conventional and organic mushrooms is the company’s new Warwick, MD, facility. This second half of the third expansion of the facility was recently completed — this time adding 80,000 square feet to its footprint.

“This third building is double the size of the first two expansions combined,” said Donovan. “Because of the increase in demand, one of our three buildings now produce only organic mushrooms.”

The entire Maryland facility will produce about 750,000 pounds of mushrooms per week when it is in full production.

The company, he added, is already working on plans for the next expansion to the facility.

“We will be adding 40,000 to 60,000 square feet of space to the third building in the upcoming future,” said Donovan.