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Ongoing project

Educating the food industry about Australian Mushrooms (MU20003)

Key research provider: Australian Mushroom Growers’ Association

What’s it all about?

This investment is delivering evidence-based information about Australian mushrooms to health and food service professionals in Australia. By improving the awareness, knowledge and attitude of health professionals to the nutrition and health benefits of mushrooms, they will be encouraged to recommend mushroom to their clients, or include mushroom in their menus, and ultimately help to drive purchase and consumption.

The project team will undertake a range of activities, including:

  • Engaging with key decision makers from top tier commercial and institutional catering organisations to discuss the inclusion of mushrooms in
  • Providing educational material to culinary schools, mushroom growers, food service professionals and dietitians. These educational resources will improve understanding of mushrooms, as well encourage confidence and proficiency at using them.
  • Developing case studies that showcase the health benefits of mushrooms
  • Updating culinary school curriculums to include the nutrition, health and culinary uses of mushrooms
  • Participating in food industry professional conferences to further promote mushrooms
  • Conducting farm tours to connect health professionals to mushroom growers.

The first culinary school farm tour was conducted in mid-May, with 40 emerging chefs from The Star Culinary Institute visiting a compost facility and mushroom farm in the Hawkesbury region, west of Sydney, to witness firsthand how mushrooms grow. The culinary students received printed educational materials, enjoyed a mushroom brunch at the farm and boxes of mushrooms to take back to their kitchen.

Over the past eight months, the project team have completed the Food Industry Insights Report for Australian Mushrooms, which includes Phase 1 (Industry Scope) Food Industry Blueprint and Phase 2 (Food Industry Market Research) food industry survey and one-on-one Key Opinion Leader (KOL) interviews.

The comprehensive 93-page Food Industry Insights Report for Australian Mushrooms provides significant quantitative and qualitative insights into the food industry, which have formed the strategic direction for the next project phase.

Insights from the one-on-one food industry KOLs interviews were instrumental in fostering relationships and networks within the food industry to identify potential organisations for intervention, provide deeper insights into the needs, barriers, and opportunities for mushrooms within the industry, and understand what communication messages are likely to resonate and how best to reach the target audience. Several suitable high quanta of influence organisations have expressed interest in the case study menu interventions. Two (one commercial and one institutional catering) interventions will be completed in the next project phase.

A review of the recently updated national culinary curriculum has revealed that fungi have been omitted from the new vegan, vegetarian and meat-free units. However, the one-on-one interviews with key industry leaders of food service organisations and culinary schools have expressed great interest in involvement in the project’s future planned lesson plan development, farm tours and mushroom case study interventions. The project team will explore these opportunities in the project's next phase.

Over the last four months, the research team have focused on food industry research which will be used to form the strategic plan for the project. The significant outputs of this period included the partial completion of phase 2 of the Food Industry Insights Report, with nine one-on-one food industry Key Opinion Leader (KOL) interviews completed, the commencement of a food industry market research poll (survey), and the completion of the project communications plan.

Although partially completed, the one-on-one KOL interviews and market research polls have delivered significant quantitative and qualitative insights into the sector, which will be used to inform the strategic plan for the project in the next phase - case study interventions with high quantum of influence organisations. Insights gathered from the KOL interviews to date have been collated and summarized under five key territories: health centricity, knowledge, nutrition issue/challenges, usage (barriers and drivers), and communication (what and how). Initial findings were shared with the Project Reference Group (PRG) group in May.

With economic challenges in the food industry and labour shortages as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, securing one-on-one KOL interviews have been more difficult than expected and has caused delays to the completion of phase 2 of the Food Industry Insights report and project milestone. Nine KOL interviews have been achieved within this reporting period with the remaining interviews scheduled for June. Subsequently, the Food Industry Insights webinar will be presented to the mushroom industry in July/August.

Despite this challenge, the project team have succeeded to develop a solid database of food industry health professionals and identify significant opportunities for case study interventions within the institutional catering sector, to build the foundations that will underpin the strategic plan for the project.

Related levy funds

This project is a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Mushroom Fund.