In The Blend, mushrooms take a back seat to other flavors, and that’s kind of the point.
Even people who say they don’t like mushrooms tend to like recipes prepared with The Blend, which is the Mushroom Council’s promotion that swaps finely diced mushrooms for a portion — or all — of the protein in many familiar dishes like meatloaf, tacos, chili and burgers.
“That’s one of the things we find … we’ll meet someone who works in a department and says ‘Oh, I’m not a big fan of mushrooms,’ and they try this and love it,” says Steven Muro, president of Fusion Marketing, who handles The Blend’s retail outreach on behalf of the San Jose-based council.
The council introduced The Blend about three years ago, Muro says. At first, retail wasn’t a primary target. “The focus of the council over the last three years has predominantly been at foodservice, schools and universities,” he says. “Now the strategy is to slightly shift into retail.”
Muro says he started piloting programs with retailers about 18 months ago, with promising results.
“We’ve seen really excellent sales lift,” he says. “We’ve seen up to 60% increase in mushroom sales in the produce department,” he says.
But The Blend at retail isn’t just about selling more fresh mushrooms. It also incorporates deli, meat and incremental produce sales. Muro says at the most recent retailer to pilot The Blend in its deli and meat departments, they saw a 10% lift in deli sales of meatloaf converted to The Blend and a 12% increase in hamburger patty sales.
Results have been so promising, Muro says, that participants have elected to continue selling mushroom-blended prepared foods as an everyday prepared item.
“At Doc’s in Tulsa, they actually had people coming in who had never been into their stores, looking for blended products because they had read about them,” he says.
Retailers should want more mushroom buyers, Muro says. Mushrooms equal incremental sales.
“When fresh mushrooms are in a market basket, sales increase by 82%,” he says. “The average basket goes from $41.47 to $75.62.”
And that’s because mushroom buyers are buying for recipes. Building a blended burger means things like buns, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. Building blended marinara sauce equals mushrooms plus tomato sauce, pasta, herbs and even wine.
Interested in piloting The Blend at your stores? You don’t have to go at it alone. The Mushroom Council currently is seeking retail participants for The Blend pilot promotions. There’s no added cost, Muro says, and the council provides strategic and tactical support, materials, toolkits and more.
The Blend also has information tailored to retail dietitians, as well, including a toolkit, nutrition information and recipes. Dietitians, in particular, are interested in the health benefits of swapping mushrooms for meat.
Retailers interested in participating can get program and contact information from MushroomsAtRetail.com.
“We’ll start off with a phone call, and then a discussion,” he says. “When they’re ready to proceed, I’m happy to come meet with them and their staff and customize a program that meets their needs.”