As consumers continue their quest for convenience, they’re buying more sliced mushrooms than ever, according to the San Jose, Calif.-based Mushroom Council’s 2009 Best Practices study.

Sliced mushroom sales, which are growing faster than sales of whole mushrooms, were up 0.4%, and there were 2.2% more pounds of white varieties sold during the year period ending Nov. 7, and up 3% in dollars and 4.5% in pounds for brown varieties, the council reported.

The Mushroom Council recommends that sliced mushrooms account for 50% of retailers’ mushroom displays.

Bob Besix, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Country Fresh Mushroom Co., Avondale, Pa., confirmed that the sliced mushroom category has grown over the years.

“I think it has become a convenient item, not only at retail, but at foodservice, also,” he said.

He pointed out that restaurant owners can save money on labor by ordering pre-sliced mushrooms.

Country Fresh sells mostly 8-ounce packages but also offers a 12-ounce pack and added a 6-ounce package about a year ago.

For foodservice, the company has 3-, 5- and 10-pound packs and a package of two 5-pound plastic pails.

Country Fresh offers sliced white and brown mushrooms and also has a thicker steak cut.

Highline Mushrooms, Leamington, Ontario, has been offering sliced mushrooms for more than two decades and probably was the first grower-shipper in Canada to offer them, said Jean Chauvin, sales and distribution manager.

The company launched a washed, retail sliced pack in 2004 that has been performing very well, he said.

The 8-ounce package is the most popular, but Highline also offers a 1-pound and 1.5-pound package.

Highline also has added blends that include white, brown and exotic mushrooms.

“These blends are a great way to introduce consumers to other varieties as well as allow them to pick up one ready-to-use package and make a gourmet meal,” Chauvin said.

Chauvin said 18% of Highline sales are sliced.

Besides sliced mushrooms, Modern Mushroom Farms, Avondale, Pa., offers six flavors of stuffed mushrooms, said Greg Sagan, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

“Our stuffed line continues to grow in both the foodservice and retail sectors,” he said.

Stuffed mushrooms are available for retail in four-count, 8-ounce packages and for foodservice in 20- or 40-count packs.

When Monterey Mushrooms Inc., Watsonville, Calif., launched its sliced mushroom program more than 25 years ago, the company offered only sliced white mushrooms for foodservice, said vice president Joe Caldwell.

In the late 1990s, most pizza chains switched to fresh white or brown mushrooms, and now sliced mushrooms are extremely popular at retail, as well.

“There are more sliced mushrooms sold than whole mushrooms now,” he said.

For the past five years, the company has seen major growth in the sliced baby portabella category and has introduced 12- and 16-ounce packages in addition to its 8-ounce size, he said.

Caldwell said he expects to see significant growth in volume of vitamin D-enriched mushrooms that the company sells this year.

Gary Schroeder, director of Dole Mushrooms, Kennett Square, Pa., said he was talking about new sliced products with a customer recently.

“That’s clearly the way everybody’s thinking right now,” he said.

In some stores, 8-ounce packages of sliced white mushrooms outsell whole mushrooms, he said.

“Shippers and processors have been striving to make things more convenient for consumers for the past 40 or 50 years,” Schroeder said, “and I think that trend is still on track.”