A Kingdom of Their Own: Fungi Shine While Mushrooms Emerge as Market Stars

The mushroom renaissance has led to diverse product development, as stakeholders construct a long runway for future innovation.

By Sean Moloughney, Editor • 06.01.23

A fascination with fungi has spread quickly throughout the U.S.—and for good reason. According to the U.S. Forest Service: “The fungus kingdom is enormous in its diversity, with over 100,000 described species. It includes yeasts, molds, rusts, and the familiar mushrooms. Fungi are the primary decomposers and recyclers of the planet, breaking down organic matter and returning it back to the soil where they are absorbed by organisms in the ecosystem, through mutualistic partnerships.”
Various species of mushrooms have been cropping up at farmers markets and restaurants while also starring in ready-to-drink teas, coffees, and other functional beverages, as well as a broad menu of dietary supplements.
Mushrooms have also seeped into popular culture, exemplified by HBO's hit drama series “The Last of Us”—based on a video game of the same name—in which a “zombie fungus” (Ophiocordyceps unilateralis) overwhelms humanity in an apocalyptic plague.
If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”—replete with its toadstool themes, characters, and imagery from the original videogame series—has raked in more than $1.2 billion globally, becoming one of the top animated movies of all time. 
A Convergence of Market Drivers

Why are mushrooms seemingly everywhere, and in everything? They've certainly burst into the nutraceuticals market with voracity, as legacy mushroom companies experience a boom and broader brands extend product lines to meet consumer demand.
“People are always looking for new ways to take better care of themselves,” noted Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA). So all the attention given to fungi and mushrooms is a clear reflection of consumer interest in health-promoting natural products, he said.
The ongoing influence of Asian cuisine, expansion of the public's palate, and recognition of the health benefits of mushrooms are all contributing factors, McGuffin suggested. “It's no longer rare to find mushrooms in the grocery store, and I think that's part of what has driven the growth of medicinal mushrooms in dietary supplements.”

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