The Mushroom Movement
Strategy Sessions unpack a topic of interest discussed within the JMS strategy team. From business trends to personal passions and everything in between, these conversations spark innovation and help us find new ways of thinking.
This Week's Topic: Mushrooms
For a while there, mushrooms weren’t much more than a widely contested pizza topping or a psychedelic punchline to many a bad trip joke. Recently, however, the world of fungi has recaptured the public’s attention and again risen to prominence in the cultural zeitgeist. From fashion to health & wellness, farmers markets to Michelin-starred menus, and beyond, the possibilities for this miracle organism seem limitless. But why the sudden mushroom renaissance, and where is the movement poised to go next?
This past month, the JMS strategy team took inventory of developing trends in all things mycelia, and considered what the high hope of the mushroom might symbolize in today’s world.
Health & Wellness
In recent retail trends, non-psychedelic mushroom supplement brands have carved out a significant corner of the wellness market, growing the idea of optimization through routine.
“It's funny how mushrooms are part of a wave of emerging technologies when they've been around for hundreds of millions of years. It feels like they're everywhere—building materials, coffee, beauty products, clothing, mental health practices. Mushroom spores will float around until they settle on the right environment to develop on and form a symbiotic relationship with, and us humans are kind of like a fallen tree that mycelia has latched onto.”
— Catherine Nolan, Digital and UX Strategist
The staying power of this movement seems to be in its reliance on just that—routine. From retail to microdosing to foraging, the mushroom trend is deeply rooted in habit. It’s not about a quick fix—it’s about building a meaningful routine in one’s life that (hopefully) gives way to a healthier self.
“The American diet includes more mushrooms than it used to—about four pounds per person a year, a gradual increase from just one in the sixties. The hefty portobello burger is ubiquitous, and, even before the current pandemic, there was a growing interest in the everyday role that fungi play in our lives on a microbial level.”
— Hua Hsu, in “The Secret Lives of Fungi”
In the psychedelic realm, things have started to move from recreation to policy, with several states currently working through legislation that could legalize the use of psilocybin. It’s already decriminalized in Denver, Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Seattle.
“What just a few years ago was an obscure corner of clinical and neuroscientific research has blossomed into a vibrant scientific field. That research has already spawned an entirely new industry, with hundreds of startups, all with different ideas of how best to commercialize psychedelics. (A handful of these companies have already gone public, with billion-dollar valuations.)”
— Michael Pollan, in his intro to “The Microdose”
Fashion & Architecture
In a literal sense, mushrooms have become high fashion, too. Designers have cited mushroom anthologies and Netflix documentaries as their inspiration, moved by the intricate folds, patterns, and textures of the organisms. Material design-wise, mycelium is now a major resource used for vegan leather and other innovative fabrics.
“Our Summer 2022 collection chooses to optimistically celebrate fungi—as the future not only of fashion, but our planet.”
— Stella McCartney, introducing her spring line on stellmccartney.com
And it's not just clothing materials. Architecture firms are working to develop building materials from mycelium due to not only its sustainable nature, but also its insulation and soundproofing qualities. Though this technology is still in its infancy, this progress reflects a drive for long-term solutions to intractable world problems.
“Have you seen sculptures made from using mushrooms? They’re beautiful. It’s difficult to even fathom they’re all natural. And to add to that, they're even being used as cement and glue alternatives in construction.”
— Claudia Isbell, Junior Creative Strategist
When it comes to the future of mushrooms, it’s worth noting that their innovative qualities lie not just in supporting our daily habits in terms of psychology, health, and materials, but also in much more long-lasting endeavors, too. Take Loop, for instance. This biotech startup is now offering their Living Cocoon as a more natural way to begin the decomposing process after death.
“Mushrooms are often talked about as a monolith, but there are so many kinds that are solving so many different problems—it's pretty incredible. From city planning to vegan leather to mental health, mushrooms have shown time and time again that nature is the ultimate innovator.”
— Laura Ogle, Innovation Strategist
Applications of Mushrooms
Interested in new ways to engage with the vast world of fungi? Check out our team’s finds in mushroom applications:
Mylo™ by Bolt Threads —Just over the Berkeley border in Emeryville, the materials solutions team at Bolt Threads have been developing Mylo™, a bio-based leather alternative that is soft, supple, and less harmful to the environment.” Brand collaborators include Stella McCartney, Adidas, and lululemon.
Ecovative —This mycelium technology company develops bio-based materials that can be used for things like packaging. They’re worked with IKEA, for instance, as part of the global brand’s promise to eliminate plastic packaging by 2028.
MUD WTR — Founded in 2018, MUD WTR has built their brand as being a go-to coffee alternative. The product itself is made of a slew of ingredients, including Lion’s Mane, Reishi, and Chaga mushrooms.
Moon Juice — Moon Juice keenly marketed their “dust” products with cosmic colors and attention-grabbing names like “Spirit Dust,” “Power Dust,” and “Brain Dust,” geared for people to choose what kind of energy they’d like to fortify in their daily routine.