Retail trend alert: mushrooms — not just for pizza anymore!

July 23, 2019By Behind the Shelf Blog, Culture of Wellness

By Jen Johnston, CHHC, senior marketing services account manager, for the Culture of Wellness blog series

While exploring the aisles of Natural Products Expo West a few years back, I was struck by the overwhelmingly large presence of mushroom products, and not just in the culinary section of the show. Mushrooms were found in supplements, drinks, and even pet products.

Functional mushrooms are hot! They ranked #3 on Whole Foods’ report of the top food predictions for 2018. The retailer was sure on to something — this year, Pinterest reported that searches for mushroom recipes increased by 64% over 2018. My own Google Trends research shows searches for both “mushrooms” and “medicinal mushrooms” increasing since 2016. Searches for individual mushroom types are on the rise, too (chaga and lion’s mane, to name a couple). And Natural Grocers lists mushrooms among its 2019 nutrition trends, too.

How did mushrooms make it from humble pizza topping to medicinal miracle? Chalk it up to the culture of wellness. Food Navigator reported research that states the global mushroom market is projected to grow 8.2% from $34.1 billion in 2015 to $69.3 billion by the end of 2024 because of consumer interest in functional ingredients and food as medicine. The plant-based craze has helped, as well. (Though I would be remiss if I did not point out that mushrooms are not, in fact, a plant. They are a fungus.)

While European countries are a large segment of the market, the U.S. is catching up.  Here are some of the trending mushroom product types:

Mushroom Drinks – Tea, Coffee, and Hot Chocolate
The most popular mushroom drink company right now is probably Four Sigmatic, which burst on the U.S. scene in 2014. They offer “shrooms for every situation” including focus, energy, “chilling out,” immune support, beauty, and gut health. Their coffee and hot chocolate mixes are instant and portable. They seem to appeal to many food tribes including paleo, vegan, and keto – though these are not noted on their packaging or website, probably so they do not risk alienating anyone. Teas are another vehicle for people to get their daily mushroom dose with brands such as MycoBotanicals® leading the charge.

Mushroom Broth
EcoWatch describes a new trend warning bone broth to “look out” as “mushroom broth might be even more magical.” Mushroom broth is a “plant-based” alternative to the bone broth trend that has swept through paleo circles in recent years. (I put “plant-based” in quotes because as I mentioned earlier, mushrooms are actually a fungus!) There are recipes-a-plenty online, but some companies have developed convenience options such as Pacific Foods and Brodo Broth Co. which ships out of New York City. I expect more will crop up in the coming year.Mushroom

Mushroom Snacks (pickled, jerky, etc.)
Wellness-retailer extraordinaire, Thrive Market, sells a few variations of mushroom snacks including Pan’s Mushroom Jerky. World Market sells Lowell Pickled Mushrooms. I imagine more mushroom snacks will pop up as mushrooms continue to penetrate wellness culture.

Mushroom Powder
Om Mushroom Superfood may be known for its powders with single mushrooms or blends, however the company also sells capsules and drink mixes. E-commerce companies take note: Om allows the shopper to search by form, mushroom type or need. Yes, there are evidently many needs a mushroom can fulfill, depending on the type. For Om products, these include: energy, immune support, cognitive support, beauty, fitness, and recovery.

Mushroom Supplements
Mushroom supplements come in interesting forms such as mouth sprays and extracts from Host Defense® MushroomsTM and capsules such as these from Gaia® Herbs. Celebrities Gwyneth Paltrow and Mischa Barton both have promoted the use of mushrooms.

Mushroom Body Care
Last year, Shape magazine came out with a piece entitled Here’s Why Mushrooms Are the New “It” Skin-Care Ingredient. It highlighted skincare products that are on the mushroom bandwagon including Moon Juice® Beauty Shroom Plumping Jelly and One Love Organics® Vitamin D Moisture Mist. Celebrities are in on the game with Kim Kardashian touting the benefits of mushrooms for complexion.

Mushroom Pet Supplements
Canine Matrix offers a line of mushroom pet supplement powders that can be added to pet food. And lest you think features symbols and certifications were just for human products, pet products are also sporting labels like Non-GMO, USDA Organic, and gluten- and soy-free.

Mushroom Clothes
Ok, this one may not be trending yet, but it is happening. This Bustle article states that “mushrooms can now be fashioned into flexible leather-like clothing, purses, pants, and even durable furniture and building bricks for a cleaner, more sustainable planet.” That fits beautifully into the culture of wellness!

MycoWorks is one of the companies behind this technology. Apparently wearing fungi has anti-microbial properties, and no toxic chemicals or fertilizers are used. I predict hemp clothing will catch on before mushroom clothing, but only time will tell!

Mushroom Wearables
Microsoft Research artist-in-residence Erin Smith is performing a speculative design study called Growables into the future of bio-integrated wearable devices. While the ideas are conceptual, you can see that the potential for mushrooms is far greater than supplements.

Taxcidum Growable (Cancer) — a living wearable necklace grown from known cancer-fighting mushrooms releases medication as needed into the body through symbiosis.

Glucocylium (Diabetes) — a living wearable that makes use of the nutrient sharing capacity of mycelial networks. The symbiant monitors sugar levels within the wearer, and either delivers, or removes excess glucose, which can be stored in a nutrient pack outside of the body. Visually similar to a modern wristwatch or health tracker with a glowing screen.

Psilocybisol (PTSD/Chronic Depression) — a wearable paired with a home growth kit that provides relief from chronic depression, PTSD, and OCD through an enhanced psilocybin spore release. The user can find a calming practice in the care and growth of their enhanced medicinals, and use the wearable as a delivery device when needed.  

Mushroom…Travel Destinations??
Even the travel industry is getting in on the mushroom action, although these are not just any “trip.” Yes, magic mushroom retreats are an actual thing where middle-class people ingest psilocybin in a comfortable resort setting. Vice wrote an article about it, and the popularity of these strange trips are being driven by — you guessed it — the culture of wellness. One of the retreat founders states in that Vice article, “…plant-based psilocybin reconnects parts of the brain that have not been communicating, thus helping to heal you.”

Brands and retailers should keep an eye on the growing mushroom trend. If you are a manufacturer planning a line extension for your brand, whether food, supplement, personal care product, or beyond, consider mushrooms. There are tons of types to consider including lion’s mane, turkey tail, corydeps, chaga, reishi, shiitake, and more.