Mushroom supplier warns of 'hype cycle': Time to cultivate consumer education

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

© Anna Martianova / Getty Images
© Anna Martianova / Getty Images

Related tags mushrooms

As mushroom supplements capture mass market interest, the founder of an organic supplement producer serving the European market has warned of his concerns around marketing hype and inferior 'me too' products.

Robin Gurney, founder of Estonia-based Musheez (previously named Natural Chaga) has been supplying a range of mushrooms in a growing number of formats since 2020, witnessing the growth in demand for these supplements​ across European territories.

Now supplying about 50 brands across 20 countries, he is pleased to see the products cultivating consumer demand​ but worries the market may be in danger of crashing if it is overrun with poor quality ‘me too’ products and exaggerated marketing claims.

"I do have a concern about the ‘hype cycle’ where things come to a peak and drop off and plateau," he said. "We are somewhere around that peak and my concern is I see a lot of poor quality products on the market that are very low in the health benefiting compounds of beta glucans and polysaccharides.

natural chaga range
A selection of the Musheez range

“We see a lot of people jumping on the band wagon and trying to buy the cheapest version of the active ingredient they can get, then doing some really high quality marketing work. People will buy this low quality product, and it won’t have any benefits, and they’ll blame the mushroom.”

Gurney asserted that poor consumer education and marketing hyper are particularly dangerous in the world of mushrooms where the active ingredient can have very varying effects from one consumer to the next.

pillapalu forest retreat MUSHEEZ HQ
Musheez HQ

"For some, a product can have incredible benefits for sleep, while someone else says it’s good for their energy, which is curious but mushrooms are complex creatures and impact people in different ways," he said. "Yet when brands push these products, they tend to zoom in on one particular aspect of a mushroom or one piece of research."

He noted that most consumers do not know how to judge the quality of a mushroom supplement and so they need to be educated to understand how to read the label and look for compounds of interest in order to find the best product.

For example, he explained the cognitive health benefits of lion’s mane are due to the beta glucans, hericenones and erinacines.

"If the supplement doesn’t contain these, then they are not going to have even a chance of having an effect," he said, adding that consumers are unlikely to be aware that the fruiting body of the mushroom is where the majority of the scientific research has been conducted while the roots, or mycelium, have less backing. Another indicator of quality can be the extraction ratio—how much raw material was used to produce a gram of powder, for example.

The big sellers

Musheez produces a wide range of organic mushroom supplements from the depths of the Estonian forest, but Gurney says most of the company's business is from their ‘big four’—lion’s mane and cordyceps, which appeal to biohackers looking to boost their performance, and reishi and chaga, sought by those wanting to support their immune systems.

organic reishi growing on tilia tuan  -linden - logs
Musheez organic reishi

Discussing the formats of interest, Gurney said brands are looking for more innovative formats to give them a unique selling proposition and provide the consumer with an enjoyable experience. For example, Musheez has recently developed shots, mouth sprays and a lion’s mane and raspberry gummies.

"People want to put a twist on the product in order to stand out from the crowd, whether it be with a new format or a flavor or an added ingredient such as ashwagandha,” he said.

But the firm's biggest seller is its unique dual extract alcohol-free tincture made through alcohol extraction. This product offers the powerful compound extraction benefits of alcohol, but the alcohol is removed from the liquid for the end consumer, Gurney explained.

"For the younger crowd, especially those in France, Holland and the UK, people don’t want the alcohol, but they do want the extract gained via alcohol extraction—this is our best seller because there’s no-one else on the market doing this."

In terms of biggest consumer territories, he said that Eastern Europeans tend to have more interest than Western Europeans as there is a tradition of foraging in Eastern Europe and an inbuilt understanding of the health benefits of these ingredients.

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