Mushrooms – which are not technically plants, but fungi - can play a unique role in multiple dishes, in that they are fat-free and low in calories but contain protein, fiber, and important nutrients including vitamin D, potassium, calcium, selenium, ergothioneine, niacin, pantothenic acid, copper and riboflavin, Mushroom Council CEO Bart Minor told FoodNavigator-USA.
Chopped over-roasted mushrooms have a 'meaty' texture and flavor
They can also add texture, bulk, and ‘meaty/umami/savory’ flavor notes to dishes such as burgers, tacos and carne asada that enable manufacturers to slash the meat content by 50%, and in some cases up to 80% - significantly reducing calories, saturated fat and sodium (and ingredients costs) - without negatively impacting taste or texture, he said.
“When cooked properly [via searing or oven roasting at high temperatures, which can enhance the umami properties of mushrooms seven-fold], mushrooms can take on the texture and consistency of meat, and we’ve seen a lot of interest in what we’re calling ‘The Blend’ – a mix of fresh mushrooms and ground meat - which has opened up an entirely new market for mushroom sales.
“Blended burgers are delectable, nutritious, more sustainable, and more cost effective.”
The Blend: 'We're just scratching the surface'
Research also shows that consumers given traditional ground meat recipes prepared with 50% mushrooms and 50% meat liked these blended products just as much as the 100% beef versions, he said.
“If you’re using 20-30%, people barely notice, it’s seamless; if you’re at 50%, people notice a difference, but they like them just as much. Even burgers with 80% mushrooms and 20% ground beef taste amazing, so we’re really just scratching the surface when it comes to potential here. Kids really like these products, and we also think there is a lot of potential working with companies supplying food to colleges and universities.
“Hundreds of restaurants are now using the ‘blend’, but what’s really exciting is that it’s also being adopted in schools, and we’re having lots of conversations with retailers and packaged food manufacturers now about taking it to the retail market.”
Double digit growth for organic fresh mushrooms
According to the latest US Department of Agriculture (UDSA) data, the value of domestic mushroom production jumped by 10% in 2014 vs 2013, with production increasing by 6%, he said.
There has been growth across the board, but particularly strong momentum for specialty mushrooms such as shiitake and oyster varieties and certified organic mushrooms – both growing at double digit rates, although the latter account for less than 5% of dollar sales, he added.
“Nutritionally, I think there is this perception that brown mushrooms are the better option, but what’s really interesting is that white buttons mushrooms actually outperformed other varieties in cancer research work done with mushrooms a few years ago, although it all depends on what your focus of your research is [as to which mushrooms are the best nutritionally].”
US retail data for the year ending June 28, 2015, showed that the mushroom category reached nearly $1.1bn in retail dollar sales, according to IRI/Freshlook Marketing.
Read more about 'The Blend' HERE.