In its early days, the company operated under the tutelage of Professor Tsuneto Yoshii of the Yoshii Mycological Research Institute in Oita, Japan. “Dr. Yoshii was the pioneer of sawdust cultivation of Shiitake mushrooms and the developer of mushroom mycelial biomass health-food products,” said David Law, president and CEO.
The company began its business producing mushroom nutraceutical products by marketing the material to end-users through word-of-mouth. “Slowly, we produced some tablets, and later capsules, as consumer products,” said Mr. Law. “We worked with several marketing companies and manufacturers and began selling our mushroom mycelial biomass powder as raw ingredients to the nutraceutical industry.”
Today, the company is intent on supplying high quality mushroom products to benefit human health. With regard to nutritional supplements, the company focuses on mycelium, as mushrooms spend more than 90% of their life cycle in the mycelial, or vegetative stage. Mushroom mycelia and metabolites they express have notable health benefits for people and domesticated animals. Developing and growing new specialty mushrooms over time, the company currently produces more than 30 different species of mushrooms.
Alongside fresh cultivated mushrooms, the company offers a selection of seasonal wild mushrooms, truffle oils and dried mushrooms, including Morels, Black Trumpet, Shiitake and Porcini.
Moving forward, Mr. Law said he expects the company to become “more involved in the education process regarding the benefits of mushrooms as fundamental healthcare products.” For example, the company has developed a mushroom kit with learning aids for students K-12.
Fungi are an important source of medicine, including many antibiotics, anti-tissue rejection drugs for organ transplants, cancer drugs and anti-inflammatory products. Most of the discoveries of fungal-derived medicines have gone through rigorous studies and tests—sometimes by design, and sometimes by accident.
“We are embarking on several curiosity-based clinical observations on the use of fungal products both in the U.S. and the EU,” Mr. Law noted. “Our immediate focus is to ensure that we produce a consistent, clean and high quality product for our manufacturing partners.”
While the economic downturn has impacted the company’s sales in the culinary trade, business in the nutraceuticals sector remains strong, especially given increased consumer focus on immune health, according to Mr. Law. “To the extent that discretionary income has drastically been curtailed, we have experienced a 16% drop in our institutional culinary mushrooms sales,” he said.
“We are doing much better on the retail mushroom sales at the grocery level,” he continued. “Our nutraceutical sales, on the other hand, have kept pace with prior years without any reduction. Lately, we are witnessing a resurgence of demand for mushroom products with the headlines of H1N1 flu epidemic and other immune-related issues.”
Increasing consumer awareness will drive future growth for the industry and Gourmet Mushrooms, according to Mr. Law. “The economic downturn has definitely dampened the growth rate of our product line,” he conceded. “However, we are seeing a more informed population, especially younger generations, paying credence to the health benefits of fungal products. We feel that mushroom-based products will fare well in the future, as more evidence-based applications of mushroom products are examined and observed.”
As the company moves ahead with its business plans, it will be without its long-time associate Malcolm Clark, who retired a couple of years ago. “I now have a new business partner, Minami Satoh from Japan,” Mr. Law noted. “He has started a new business named Japan Traditional Foods, producing fresh natto, a fermented soy bean product, at our facility in California. We are constantly researching new mushrooms for both the culinary and nutraceutical trades. We are in an expansion mode with a large project on the drawing board.” For the new year, the company is adopting a new tag line: “We Mushroom your health.”
Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc.
P.O. Box 180
Sebastopol, CA 95473