High Flavor, Organic, and Conventional

Welcome to the Kitchen

Welcome to the Kitchen

Please join me at the counter and roll up your sleeves.

Today, we are cooking with fire.

First, we’ll gather our tools, which include a mushroom category cookbook dating all the way back to 1928. Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Giorgio Fresh Co. Greg Sagan turns the page to a chapter that, I am delighted to learn, is still being written.

The narrative zooms in on a newly launched, value-added brand—Giorgio’s Kitchen—of which one of the primary products is a line of shredded Portabella mushrooms.

“This new plant-based meat-alternative meal solution made from America’s Favorite Mushroom® is healthy, nutritious, and delicious,” Greg begins, already infusing this recipe with an energizing profile. “The barbecue flavor boasts a delicious blend of meat-like textured Portabella mushrooms in a savory barbecue sauce; the Sriracha flavor offers a little spice for those looking to kick things up a bit!”

The line is already giving off heat in the industry, hitting many consumer must-haves at the grocery store: plant-based, unique flavor, convenience, and versatility. Each of these flavor profiles provides a myriad of opportunities for home chefs to get creative in the kitchen, meaning buyers can count on consumer demand.

Giorgio truly hit the nail on the head in terms of satisfying the needs of the market, and that is certainly not by chance.

“We have a firm commitment to leading the category with innovative products,” Greg continues. “We are actively investing in research and development and consumer insights to bring new ways for them to enjoy the nutritious and delicious benefits of umami-packed mushrooms. The first two flavors being brought to market are deemed to be the most popular amongst shoppers today.”

In addition to flavor, many modern consumers are seeking plant-based recipes to add to their menus. By giving them convenience-forward, value-added items on several different shelves in the produce aisle, the basket share for fresh will only continue to go up. Because not only are shoppers looking to place fresh produce at the center of the plate, they are looking for a product they can come back to time and time again.

“Mushroom-based innovations are well-poised to satisfy the recent market trends surrounding plant-based protein consumption. Consumers are looking to supplement or increase their protein through plant-based sources for multiple reasons: nutritional health benefits and emerging lifestyles being two of them, which call for cutting out animal-based foods,” Greg explains.

“Plant-based alternatives are actually outpacing animal-based counterparts in a wide range of meal occasions.”

Greg Sagan, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Giorgio Fresh Co.

As we in fresh produce know, we are battling for shelf space at some of the more traditionally formatted retailers, especially as the move toward e-commerce continues to eat up market share. Even so, Greg tells me that plant-based proteins are holding their own against meat contenders, leading me to believe that the time is now for produce suppliers to target sales in this sector.

“Plant-based alternatives are actually outpacing animal-based counterparts in a wide range of meal occasions,” he says. “We have found that refrigerated plant-based options are performing well across the store, with a 62 percent increase in growth. We have also seen research that says one in four Americans cut down their meat consumption during the pandemic.”

Putting pen to paper (or perhaps, I should say, putting product to plate) was a feat all its own, as Greg tells me. Identifying the top trends was the first step in Giorgio’s plan. Next came the true test of innovation—the dare to bring market-leading flavors to a traditionally untapped format.

“Creating the perfect flavor profile was a bit of a challenge. We went through several iterations to get unique, savory profiles for each product,” says Greg. “We are happy with the final product and are excited to bring it to market.”

Initially, the line will only be available on retail shelves, but Greg divulges that foodservice applications are also on the menu. I, for one, would be the first in line for a Sloppy Joe with barbecue Portabella shreds piling over the edges.

As Greg and I continue peering into the ingredient cabinet of Giorgio’s Kitchen, I can almost see the nearly century-long list of fresh applications and industry innovations that decorate the company’s history. With this, I am reminded of the original vision behind this brand—one that places fresh produce excellence above all else.

It is this exact vision that brought Giorgio into the culinary hall of fame in the first place. Now, the team sits at the head of the plant-based table, rolling out the table cloth, and even helping others find their chairs.

“We believe that this product will help consumers meet their desires for cleaner, meat-free meal solutions, and, ultimately, will take retail plant-based sales to greater heights,” Greg emphasizes, reminding me of the ultimate goal that Giorgio’s new brand aims to achieve. “More consumers are looking for healthier plant-based meat-alternative options, and our shredded Portabella product truly is a great substitute.”

As I asserted earlier in this article, the chapter called Giorgio’s Kitchen has only just begun to be written. I cannot say what Greg and his team will be cooking up next, but if it is anything at all like this initial launch, produce buyers may soon have a whole new channel of demand on their hands—one Giorgio is not just responding to, but creating.

I don’t know about you, but my kitchen has plenty more room for mushroom-based innovation.

And, if my time in the industry has taught me anything, your shoppers’ kitchens will, too. 

Welcome to the Kitchen