Why non-renewable packaging will not be an option in the future

Workers at the Codd Mushrooms facility in Carlow with their company's new range of organic mushrooms
Workers at the Codd Mushrooms facility in Carlow with their company's new range of organic mushrooms
Grace Maher

Grace Maher

As a result of significant market changes, mushroom growers have been forced to look at new product development, and this is where organic mushrooms have generated an interest.

McArdle Mushrooms in Armagh are considered the trail blazers by many in the industry.

They began growing organic mushrooms as early as 2000, slowly built up the organic section of their business and seven years ago converted it all to organic production, becoming the only 100pc dedicated organic mushroom grower in Ireland.

"McArdle Mushrooms have been growing since the 1970s and organic production was a logical progression for us," says John McArdle.

"The Irish market for organic mushrooms continues to grow and remains valuable. As a company based in Northern Ireland, Brexit has impacted on our business, particularly with regard to labour supply and fear of what a potential hard border means for our customers."

Also registered with the Irish Organic Association, Monaghan Mushrooms have recently started to grow organic mushrooms.

"There is increasing interest and demand for organic products, both in Ireland and in European countries," says Noel Hegarty from the Monaghan Mushroom Group.

"We want to offer a range of products to cater for all of our customer needs.

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"We produce organic mushrooms at our farm in Claremorris for the Irish market and we also produce organic mushrooms on one of our UK sites for the UK market. Purchasers of organic produce are interested in where a product comes from and many are seeking to minimise food miles."

Sustainable packaging

With a growing awareness about food packaging, especially plastics, there is a demand from consumers for more compostable and bio-degradable packaging.

The newer players in organic mushroom production have considered the packaging issue very carefully.

Monaghan Mushrooms sell their organic range in cardboard punnets with a non-PVC wrap.

Codd Mushrooms are one of the biggest mushroom producers in the country and five weeks ago they launched an organic range.

Leslie Codd says that "packaging was a very important aspect of this new product range.

"There is a very public push from consumers who are stepping away from non-renewable packaging and in many ways the onus is on us as people supplying into retailers to bring new packaging solutions to the market.

"We wanted our organic range to be packed in sustainable materials and after much research they are now sold in wooden punnets which are compostable.

"It is four times more expensive but it was important for us to get it right, future plans include compostable labels and biodegradable plastic.

"I foresee that in the next 10 years, non-renewable packaging will not be an option, whether that is a requirement from the consumer, retailers, government or indeed a combination is not clear, but either way it is moving things in the right direction".

When questioned about why Codd Mushrooms are now producing an organic range Leslie says "the retailers that we supply all want an organic range.

"Prior to this, we imported a product to supply that demand but it made sense for us to grow our own.

"The market wants a local and organic product and we are responding to that demand.

"I know that our organic range is new to the market but we are delighted with initial results as sales have increased by 20pc since we launched in May and you can now find our organic mushrooms in almost all of the big retail outlets," says Leslie.

"That is fantastic news especially considering the hot weather - as the saying goes the more strawberries you sell the less mushrooms you sell!

"Based on sales to date we are optimistic about future growth and development in the organic mushrooms sector both in Ireland and in the UK," he adds.

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