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The secret to a perfect ‘green’ mushroom


Unilever’s sustainable mushroom project in China recently picked up the Green Development Excellence Award at the 2016 Invest in Green Future Corporate Social Responsibility awards.

Mushrooms grow in a bed of compost made from manure and rice stalks

No pesticides

Working with our mushroom supplier in China – Shundi Foods – we started developing the programme in 2005 as part of our plan to localise production in the country. The collaboration has significantly increased quality and capacity, and eliminated the use of pesticides. It is also helping us reach our target for sustainable sourcing.

By bringing production in-house – to give it control over the process, origin and employee standards – and by using modern methods, Shundi now provides 100% sustainable mushrooms for our Knorr products.

Once harvested, the mushrooms are processed and sorted at the factory

Ever wondered how mushrooms are grown?

If you imagined mushrooms are cultivated outside in vast open fields, think again.

Growing double-spore mushrooms – one of the world’s most common varieties – is a complex process. It takes place in large sheds with highly controlled temperatures, pure water and gentle, natural sunlight. If these conditions aren’t right, growth time will slow and yields will decrease.

The quality of the soil also plays a crucial role. As part of the programme, Shundi now uses compost made from manure and rice stalks collected from local smallholder farmers. This reuses what would otherwise be a waste product and provides farmers with additional income.

The manure and stalks are mixed with soil to form compost which is fermented twice to release vital nutrients. It is also sterilised with a non-toxic steam treatment to kill pests, weeds, bacteria, fungi and viruses.

Increasing the yield

The fresh mushrooms – which take about 2 months to fully grow – are delivered to local factories and processed immediately to lock in the goodness and nutrients.

Using modern methods means mushrooms can be grown all year round rather than just over the winter, the typical growing season using traditional techniques.

“We’re still in the first year of this new process and, as well as a superior product, the yield has already doubled,” says Alice You, Sales Director at Shundi. “We estimate that, as we gain experience, the yield could increase four-fold.”

Driving sustainable growth

Promoting ‘green’ business and consumption is high priority for Shanghai, which is aiming to become a global centre of science and technology innovation. The Invest in Green Future Awards – organised by the Shanghai Observer and Shanghai Daily in partnership with several government departments – recognise initiatives that are helping drive Shanghai's sustainable growth.

Photograph of a panel at the CSR and Innovation Summit in 2016 in Shanghai
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