Britain is going crazy for once obscure exotic mushroom varieties thanks to the plant-based food revolution.
So strong is the current demand that one of the UK’s specialist growers and importers, Smithy Mushrooms based in West Lancashire, has seen its business nearly treble in size in the last three years
The company, which has supplied Tesco for 30 years, has especially seen a massive demand for oyster mushrooms which have become trendy because of their meaty texture and versatility to replicate many meat dishes.
Since 2019 volume demand for oyster mushrooms has nearly tripled with a jump of 370,000 packs sold annually back then to one million sales in 2022.
And in a few months time the company will open a new production site that will make them the UK’s biggest grower of exotic mushrooms. The oyster mushrooms have become a key ingredient in many of Tesco’s plant-based offerings.
John Dorrian, Managing Director, said that demand right now, particularly for exotic varieties such as shiitake, is so high that the company has had to turn away new business because it can’t at present produce enough.
The new Smithy Mushrooms site, which is set to open in the autumn, will increase shiitake mushroom growing capacity from 36 tonnes per month to 84 tonnes per month.
And the move will also leave extra capacity for oyster production at their present site allowing it to increase from 36 tonnes per month to 84 tonnes per month.
John said, “The plant-based food boom has been the best thing that’s ever happened to our business and suddenly exotic varieties like oyster and shiitake mushrooms, which just five years ago I was struggling to sell, have become super trendy.
“And since the Covid pandemic there has also been increasing interest in the nutritional qualities of mushrooms which is now putting very unconventional varieties such as Lion’s Mane on the foodie map.
“We’re already seeing other little-known varieties such as Shimeji and Eryngii being sold in supermarkets and we believe it’s an industry that is truly going to mushroom in the next few years.”
Tesco mushroom buyer Lisa Gilbey said, “Exotic varieties such as oyster and shiitake mushrooms have become hugely trendy with shoppers as well as food manufacturers like ourselves who are increasingly using them as key ingredients in plant-based dishes.
“Brown Oyster Cluster and King Oyster mushrooms, in particular, are two of the vegetables behind the success of our exclusive Wicked Kitchen and Plant Chef ranges as they offer so much versatility and because of their mild flavours and fibrous consistency.
“Based on this rising popularity we have recently launched our first pack of mixed exotic mushrooms which includes mixed coloured Oyster, Shiitake and in season Wild mushroom varieties when available.”