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Marketing

Marketing of specialty mushrooms in the United States is a relatively new enterprise. Since consumers are increasingly interested in diet and health, many food companies are focusing marketing efforts on a nutrition message (Johnson 2002). According to Johnson (2002), sales for products considered nutritious continue to grow. As the United States population continues to age, nutrition becomes even more important.

Some merchandisers have projected a steady growth in consumption of specialty mushrooms. As consumers become more aware of specialty mushrooms, demand is expected to increase. Aggressive marketing will help to find new markets for these relatively new products. Therefore, specialty mushroom producers seeking new outlets for their mushrooms may want to check sources listing reputable produce industry firms (Blue Book 2003, Red Book 2003, The Packer 2003). A mushroom merchandising action plan appeared in a relatively recent edition of Produce Business Magazine. The author (Silva 2002) suggested the following ideas: 1) keep display neat; maintain 34F (1C) and do not overstock, 2) supply recipes on each package or near mushroom display, 3) provide added-value packages as well as bulk purchase options, 4) offer nutritional and informational materials, and 5) take advantage of cross merchandising opportunities in the meat department. Other sources of information for marketing include: American Mushroom Institute 2003 www.americanmushroom.org/ , Mushroom Council 2003 www.mushroomcouncil.com/ , and USDA 2003a,b.

Specialty mushrooms are sold fresh, dried or processed in Japan and China. Most fresh shiitake is collected and shipped to central wholesale markets where brokers and other participants buy the mushrooms through a bidding process in Japan (Hara 1988). Mushrooms then are distributed to retailers for consumer purchase. Other mushrooms, such as Pleurotus, may be packaged at the farm and shipped directly to brokers or to retailers.

Dried shiitake is distributed through traders specializing in this mushroom (Hara 1988). These traders (about 400 in Japan in 1988; data not available for China) buy shiitake at special bidding markets and then distribute the product to retailers for in country consumption or to trading firms for overseas export. In recent years, however, exports of shiitake from Japan have declined as the number of shiitake producers has declined and shiitake production has decreased (Anonymous 1992, Royse 1997, 2001). On the other hand, Chinese production of shiitake and exportation of the product to Japan have increased dramatically in the last five years (Chang 2002).