The Mushroom Council, San Jose, Calif., has set its sights on the foodservice industry this winter, where restaurants, distributors and even colleges and universities are promoting the taste and nutrition benefits of mushrooms, said Kathleen Preis, marketing coordinator.

The industry’s blendability concept, where mushrooms are blended with meat, will be key to allowing foodservice operators “to offer American classics that consumers crave while reducing calories, fat, sodium and animal protein,” Preis said.

Chefs incorporate ‘blendability’ conceptFormer “Next Iron Chef” contestant Jehangir Mehta of Graffiti restaurant in New York demonstrated a gourmet mushroom blended burger with a side of king trumpet fries at the New York Culinary Trust’s 30th anniversary event “A Feast to Celebrate the Future of Food,” she said.

Blendability also is a hit on college campuses.

“Millenials are a highly food-conscious and sustainability-focused market, making mushrooms and mushroom blendability highly successful in university dining,” Preis said.

The Mushroom Council is working with schools like the University of Massachusetts, which is rolling out its blended burger after a successful test, she said.

Harvard plans to add up to 15 mushroom-meat recipes to its program, Stanford is testing a blended item at breakfast, the University of Southern California will complete a mushroom recipe contest in December, and the University of North Texas has a major mushroom and nutrition promotion planned for its second semester. 

Compass Group, a foodservice management company, has officially rolled out its Mushroom-Blended Favorites promotion, and the company is developing initiatives for individual promotions for different sectors, a recipe contest and a series of chef training sessions, Preis said.

Restaurant chains continue to feature mushrooms prominently, both as limited-time offers and menu constants.

Denny’s featured mushrooms in its Build-You-Own Omelet program last fall, Applebee’s and Perkins promoted items with mushrooms, Wendy’s reintroduced its bacon portabella melt in December, and Au Bon Pain, a major fast-casual player, introduced an egg-white mushroom breakfast sandwich as well as a chicken mushroom sandwich, each accompanied by heavy marketing support, Preis said.