How do you keep a brand relevant for 25 years? Gourmet Mushrooms Inc.'s secret is evolving while still staying true to its original vision.
Co-founders Malcolm Clark and David Law drew on their strong scientific backgrounds to unearth their positioning as "the pioneers in exotic mushroom cultivation." In 1977, they targeted the culinary and nutritional supplement markets with the nation's first commercial shiitake mushroom farm. Within 8 years, sales, er, mushroomed to $1 million.
By 1981, shiitake mushrooms were ubiquitous; major corporations had entered the market, the floodgates from overseas importers were open, and even Midwestern farmers had converted to shiitake farming. Because Gourmet had never stopped its quest for exotic mushrooms, Clark and Law were able to extend their brand by successfully cultivating the Pom Pom and later introducing a special variety from Bali that they named Baby Blue Oyster. Today the company offers 29 different varieties of mushrooms, with less than 5 percent of sales coming from the shiitake variety.
By year-end, the firm will have multimillion-dollar sales and a 43,000-square-foot facility. Despite the company's success, it's still got one branding problem: its name. "Gourmet Mushrooms" doesn't make inroads into the minds of restaurant-goers and chefs. While brands such as Starbucks coffee and Laura Chanel's chevre cheese routinely earn a place on upscale menus, this brand can't. This year, the firm is contemplating a more distinct, yet consumer-friendly, name. Gourmet Mushrooms refuses to stick its head in the sand.
Elizabeth J. Goodgold is CEO/chief nuancer of The Nuancing Group, a brand consulting firm in San Diego, and author of the monthly newsletter Duh! Marketing.
- Gourmet Mushrooms Inc.<<br> (707) 823-1743, www.gourmetmushroomsinc.com