Mushrooms are fueling the plant-based revolution as we all strive to reduce our meat intake and consume ingredients with more functional benefits. In financial terms, the global mushroom market is expected to reach $50 billion in the next seven years, according to a recent report by Grand View Research. While the U.S. is a major producer of fresh mushrooms, Europe and the developing economies of Asia Pacific are expected to see the fastest growth. What is behind the mushroom mania? 

Mushrooms have become attractive as a functional food and are appreciated for their antioxidant, antitumor and antimicrobial properties.

Specifically, mushrooms are becoming more important in our diet due to their nutritional value, high protein and low fat and energy contents. The mushroom protein contains all the nine essential amino acids required by humans. 

Not all mushrooms are created equal. There is a particular interest in functional mushrooms – those varieties that provide an added health benefit, beyond simple nutrition. Common advantages cited by proponents of the functional mushroom trend include anti-inflammatory properties –– helpful for people with a variety of medical conditions that cause inflammation –– and the presence of substances like antioxidants, which can help boost blood flow and provide other benefits. Although not all mushrooms provide the added benefits commonly tied to functional mushrooms, all mushrooms are nutritious, high protein, high fiber, vitamin-rich foods. 

Most recently, mushroom product innovation has run rampant. We see particular promise in beverage boosters and plant-based snacks, often featuring mushrooms either as the key event or a main ingredient.

Take Shrooms Snacks, who has tapped into the popularity of plant-based snacking and offers a variety of different snacks featuring mushrooms, including Shrooms Crispy Mushrooms, Shrooms Mushroom Jerky and Shrooms Snack Bars.

Eat the Change, founded by Honest Tea founder Seth Goldman and celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn, offer a more premium curated mushroom jerky with an emphatic mission to change the way the world eats to more planet-friendly foods. On the beverage side, Laird Superfood, now offers a mushroom based beverage booster, designed to boost consumers’ energy and cognition. 

The mushroom craze is in its first phase of growth. Like kale, CBD and the other health and wellness fads that have trended over the years, the vast majority of current mushroom brands are solely ingredient focused. Once the market becomes saturated, the realization will hit brands that their popularity cannot solely rely on featuring a single ingredient. Consumers want to know how a product will benefit them. 

So while Whole Foods, Kroger and other major grocery stores forecasted 2021 to be the year of the mushroom, we expect the best is yet to come for mushroom brands, particularly as the lines continue to blur between functional foods, supplements and the benefits that each has to offer.

Annette Herz

Annette is skilled at identifying growth opportunities and successfully guiding products from concept to launch. At Compass, she advises leading brands and category disruptors in the health & beauty, personal care and home appliance sectors.

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