The retail giant launched its range of enriched Chestnut, Baby Chestnut and Portobello mushrooms in more than 800 stores across the country, retailing them at £1 (€1.16) per pack – the same price as its regular mushrooms.
Dr Carrie Ruxton, nutritionist at the industry-funded Health Supplements Information Service (HSIS), said the mushroom product could help close the current vitamin D gap in the UK.
“We now have got a bigger gap between where we are between consumption, which is 2-3 micrograms, and the 10 mcg recommendation,” she told NutraIngredients.
Irish firm Monaghan Mushrooms produce the mushrooms using extra light to naturally enhance the vitamin D2 levels thanks to the ergosterol compound in the fungi. One portion of the enriched mushrooms provides 5 micrograms of vitamin D – which previously met recommended daily allowances (RDA) in the UK and Ireland.
The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has since updated its recommendation to 10 mcg per day and Monaghan Mushrooms said the company will be working to increase the vitamin D level in their mushrooms accordingly.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its opinion on vitamin D intakes in July. It set an adequate intake (AI) level of 15 mcg per day from food sources for adults and children to achieve a serum level of 50 nanomoles per litre (nmol / L).
Vitamin D has won several claims under the strict EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) including its role in bone, muscle, teeth, immune system and cellular health.
While most European multivitamin products have been reformulated with the new 10 mcg recommendation in mind, Ruxton said the enriched mushrooms added “another option to the repertoire”.
Chloe Miles, nutritionist and spokesperson for the British Dietician Association (BDA), agreed and said the product would be especially important for vegetarians and vegans.
“A few studies have shown that the type of vitamin D provided by mushrooms can help to improve vitamin D status just as well as other forms of vitamin D,” she said.
Ruxton added “that by having mushrooms you’re having one of your five a day at the same time. So, we’re killing two birds with one stone.”
Not the first, not the last?
James Cantoni, Tesco produce buyer, said the company was delighted with the launch and if all went well, would consider a wider market rollout.
“Our current focus is a successful launch in the UK market. Pending this, we may review expansion into other regions across Europe,” he said.
Asked who the target consumer was, he said the mushrooms would naturally appeal to health conscious consumers but had broader appeal.
“The beauty of the vitamin D mushrooms is that they appeal to all sorts of shoppers within the category. All customers buying the products can now enjoy a simple and convenient way to include more nutrients into their diet without changing their habits.”
UK rival Marks & Spencer and Irish chain SuperValu also stock one variety of Monaghan’s vitamin D2-enriched mushroom, but Tesco is the first retailer to roll out an entire range.
After just two years in the aisles, M&S said its product now drives around 50% of its overall mushroom category growth.
Miles said continued developments like this from industry were extremely valuable.
“It is important for manufacturers to continually look at ways to nutritionally develop their products to influence the health of the nation, whether that be to increase our vitamin D levels, or reduce the sugar content of foods. So, it is a positive companies are looking for ways to do this,” she said.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin family encompassing ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). Both forms are found in foods and supplements, while vitamin D3 is synthesised in the body when skin is exposed to UV light (like the sun).