Over the past few years, the Blend concept — mixing chopped mushrooms with ground meat to reduce fat intake and calories — has establ
ished a foothold on restaurant menus and now shoppers are able to find blend-ready items in the produce department of their local grocery store.The idea of a beef-mushroom blended burger— "The Blend"-- now widely available on American menus was conceived of and incubated by The Healthy Menus R&D Collaborative (HMC), an educational initiative of high-volume culinary leaders developed by The Culinary Institute of America in partnership with its founding member, Mushroom Council.
Together these entities invested in a research study that looked at the flavor-enhancing properties of mushrooms and the appeal of blending mushrooms with ground meat. The study found that a traditional ground meat recipe prepared with 50 percent mushrooms and 50 percent meat can boost flavor (thanks to mushrooms’ umami), reduce fat, calorie and sodium intake, and add nutrients such as Vitamin D, potassium, b-vitamins and antioxidants to a recipe
The resulting "Blend" concept reflects the opportunity to apply innovative, strategic culinary insights to the substantial health and environmental imperatives facing the food industry.
As it has been adopted by chefs, the Blend concept became a powerful marketing tool, helping educate people about the many health benefits of mushrooms and how to incorporate them into their diet.
In addition, the Blend concept is giving mushrooms new visibility beyond grocery store produce departments, with some stores cross merchandising mushrooms in the meat department and placing a small mushroom display in that department.
Grocery stores are also showcasing mushrooms and the Blend as seasonal promotions. For example, in the summer, stores are featuring mushrooms, such as portabellas, as the darling of the grill, sampling blended burgers and showing sliced mushrooms atop salads.
In the winter months, produce managers – our new mushroom experts – show shoppers how to pair mushrooms with ingredients in heartier dishes such as soups, stew and stir-fries.
Within the next year, we predict there will be blended burgers in the frozen food section, fresh meat section and prepared foods section, as people look for more ways to eat healthier without giving up flavor.