A Competitive Market Analysis of the United States Shiitake Mushroom Marketplace

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Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes) have many nutritional and medicinal benefits. The cultivation of log-grown shiitake mushrooms encourages forest farming and can be an opportunity for farmers interested in developing an additional enterprise. In 2006, the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry conducted a nationwide survey of shiitake mushroom producers to analyze the U.S. shiitake mushroom industry by taking into consideration the forces that influence competition based on Porter’s five forces model. Shiitake mushrooms are grown primarily as a side business, especially those produced exclusively outdoors. Indoor production on sawdust generates higher income than outdoor production on logs, but log production is more suitable for a small-scale operation in an agroforestry setting. Barriers to entry are created by relationships in the market, economies of scale, and the learning curve effect. Although there are a limited number of spawn suppliers in the market, they produce quality inoculum and maintain good relationships with shiitake mushroom producers. The majority of respondents sell their shiitake mushrooms locally. Gourmet restaurants, farmers markets, and on-farm outlets are the main markets for shiitake mushrooms. Trends in demand are increasing and prices are high. Shiitake mushrooms can be replaced with other common or gourmet mushroom types, but also have their own identity for numerous nutritional and medicinal properties. Competition for log-grown shiitake mushrooms arises from shiitake mushrooms produced on sawdust and from imports. To successfully survive in the market, firms create competitive advantages through quality, customer service, and consistent supply. Barriers to success in the shiitake mushroom business include demanding work requirements, the need for a serious commitment to produce and market shiitake mushrooms, a 1-year time lag between investment and a return on investment, and insufficient production and marketing information. Grower associations, universities, and state and federal agencies must join their efforts to fund and support shiitake mushroom research and industry development.

Michael A. Gold
Mihaela M. Cernusca
Larry D. Godsey
Center for Agroforestry, University of Missouri