“Mushrooms really fit into all food trends”
It’s hard to imagine shelves of fruits and vegetables without white mushrooms, or even brown ones. Now is the time to introduce their more exotic cousins. In the Netherlands, exotic specialist Oakfield is working hard on it. Their dream? See every inhabitant of the Netherlands savoring a meal featuring locally grown exotic mushrooms.
“Mushrooms really fit into all food trends. From local to healthy, to meat substitutes, convenience, sustainability, whatever you want. And they are delicious too, ”begins Oakfield manager Lisa van Veen. The challenge is that most consumers are still unfamiliar with exotic mushrooms and their possibilities.
Oakfield is doing its best to raise this awareness. They have succeeded, for example, in stimulating demand for royal oyster mushrooms. It wasn’t just through the culinary section of a Dutch newspaper. But also thanks to vloggers, bloggers, and online recipe sharing on culinary channels.
Lisa van Veen
Oakfield has been supplying this exotic mushroom variety regularly to the Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn since November 2020. In another chain, Jumbo, the king oyster mushroom hit the shelves this year at the end of May. This is good news – more availability will drive demand more.
With a turnover of 10 million euros and 100 FTEs, Oakfield is one of the ten largest mushroom producers in the Netherlands. He grows nine different kinds of mushrooms: white, chestnut, royal oyster, shiitake, nameko (packet), oyster (gray, pink, yellow), white or brown beech, maitake and lion’s mane.
The farm is huge, with no less than 44 grow rooms. Thus, they can continue to specialize and develop their culture of exotic mushrooms. These mushrooms are not grown on flower beds like ordinary mushrooms but in bags of substrate.
Oakfield has been in the hands of the Dutch since 2017. Directors Maurice Koppen and Lisa van Veen have turned around. They no longer wanted to be part of the mad race for the cheapest mushrooms in the international trade. They wanted to focus on a wide range of high quality mushrooms for the Dutch market. This leaves room for exotic mushrooms in particular, given the evolution of the market.
“In countries like China, Korea and Japan, people have always eaten and cultivated many kinds of exotic mushrooms. The supply of exotic mushrooms has also been on the rise for some time in several European countries. These are places like the UK, Germany, and France. The best-known exotic varieties like oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms are doing better and better in the retail market. It’s both in the Netherlands and abroad, ”says Lisa.
Oakfield contributes to this through innovation and the development of concepts. “You can only serve the market well if you think from the consumers’ point of view. People want local products that are fresh and practical, without waste. This is also the reason why we provide products like risotto and mushroom mixes for pasta. “
But considering consumers is not the only important thing. The chain is already as short as possible. Yet, you need partners who can provide buyers with a high quality product. Oakfield has gone from an agriculture-focused business to a hybrid business. He establishes close links with the chain.
“We believe in partnerships. We work closely and over the long term with the right partners who share our vision. This is the only way to adapt and respond quickly to the market, ”says Maurice. He and Lisa are sure of the bright future of the mushroom market. It is, after all, in tune with food trends and social developments.
In terms of cultivation, mushrooms meet the demand for sustainable and local products. They are also part of a circular economy. Mushrooms like shiitakes and oyster mushrooms can be exotic. They are nevertheless easy to grow in the Netherlands.
This is done in bags filled with substrate on racks. This method of vertical cultivation takes up relatively little space and requires little water. In addition, exotic mushrooms have low disease pressure and by working hygienically you do not need any pesticides.
The substrate in which the fungi grow is made up of by-products, mainly sawdust, straw and manure. This type of agriculture thus makes an important contribution to the circular economy. Oakfield wants to further optimize this. They want to upgrade the residual flows of the business. They want to turn the stalks of king oyster mushrooms into burgers or “pulled” mushroom products.
But, for the company, there is something even more important than a low carbon footprint. People should embrace exotic mushrooms for their flavor, health benefits, and variety of uses. Mushrooms are healthy. They are low in calories and can lower your cholesterol. They also contain important vitamins and minerals.
Mushrooms are also rich in vegetable protein. They can therefore be an alternative to meat. This is especially true for varieties with a firmer bite like the king oyster mushroom. According to Anneke Ammerlaan, Dutch trendsetter, mushrooms will become a staple like meat. This is due to the growing number of flexitarians, vegetarians and vegans.
Mushrooms fit perfectly into different cuisines, from Italian to Asian. Chefs are also doing new things with mushrooms. This, in turn, inspires consumers. “People are discovering that you can use mushrooms to add flavor and texture to (meatless) dishes. It creates endless possibilities for us as producers,” Lisa concludes.
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