Fungi ingredients shaping up to be big winners in 2020, market snapshot reveals

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - souldivina
©Getty Images - souldivina

Related tags: mushrooms, medicinal mushrooms, fungi, Immune health

Medicinal fungi ingredients could be among the biggest winners in the new retail landscape of the dietary supplement industry, according to new data published by the American Botanical Council.

In conjunction with the publication of ABC’s recent annual Herb Market Report​, the group published additional data that looked at sales in the first six months of 2020.  It's a first, said ABC founder and executive director Mark Blumenthal.

“Every year people are anticipating the Herb Market Report and it’s always to see where things are and it’s always about how last compared to the year before,”​ Blumenthal said.

“But with the way COVID-19 has reshaped our lives and with how it has affected how people are buying herbs, there have been many reports of a spike of demand through the first half of 2020. We wanted to have something with more relevance, that was more was more timely,” ​he added.

The herbal supplement tent just keeps getting bigger

The report, which has been published in the latest edition of HerbalGram​, ABC’s periodical publication, lines up with other recent snapshots of the supplement market showing a sharp rise for herbs and fungal ingredients aimed at immune health.

Using SPINS data, the report found that overall supplement sales were up 39% in mid March over the same period a year previously.  Sales predictably receded somewhat thereafter, as supplement buying to some degree was driving by the pantry stocking phenomenon.  But by mid June, sales were still tracing at 14% higher than the year before.

The report predicts that overall the supplement market will see a higher yearly sales growth in 2020 than it has experience for more than two decades.  And for immune health ingredients that projection is even rosier.  This subcategory is expected to see a more than 50% year-over-year rise by the end of 2020, even with the hangover from the pantry-stocking phase.

Blumenthal said some of these gains are liable to be permanent, and future graphs of the growth of sales of dietary supplements will show a sharp step in 2020, followed by continued gains.

“I think consumers have woken up to the fact that they have this thing called an immune system.  With that, there are a whole lot more people coming into the herbal dietary supplements tent than had ever been there before, and a lot of them are going to stay,” ​Blumenthal said.

Among the herbs that have seen the greatest gains or elderberry and echinacea, something that has already been widely reported. But another big category is one that sometimes flies under the radar: the world of medicinal mushrooms.

Fungal ingredients on verge of breakthrough

The broad term fungi is often applied to this category, Blumenthal said, because there is a low level controversy within the trade whether ingredients extracted from the mycelium, or the ‘body’ of the fungus, if you will, should be mentioned in the same breath as those taken from the mushrooms themselves, which are the reproductive portions of the organism.  

However you categorize them, Blumenthal sad the future looks bright for these ingredients.  There are many different species of mushrooms in the trade and many different categories of ingredients, from powdered whole portions of fungi down to beta glucans extracted from cell walls.  Some of these have experienced sales growth of as much as 70% in the first half of 2020, the ABC report said.

Just as new consumers have entered the herbal tent, the same is true for the fungi pavilion, Blumenthal said.  Interest in and awareness of these ingredient has skyrocketed and many of these consumers a forecast to stick around in the future.

And these producers are well positioned to capitalize, Blumenthal said.  With the possible exception of a few artisanal products that might be harvested in the wild, fungal ingredients are produced in dedicated facilities, so increasing supply is merely a matter of arranging new production space. There is really an almost unlimited supply of spores from which to grow addition mats of mycelium and mushrooms, Blumenthal said.

“You produce this stuff from spores and so you can do a lot of it. These companies are working hard to keep up with demand, and their cost of goods can be very low.  It’s not like having to find new harvesters to go out and harvest additional wildcrafted goldenseal and then extracting it, for example,”​ he said.

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