The market is ripe for US truffles.
When you hear “truffle,” you likely associate it with Europe. And, after centuries of successful truffle farming, hunting, and culture sprouting from the continent, why wouldn’t you?
But, as the US truffle market inches closer to maturity, there may be some competition. Experts even say that within the next few years American truffles could become a $6 billion global industry. Here are a few reasons why:
Prices are skyrocketing in Europe
Thanks largely to climate change, European truffles are having one of the worst seasons on record. Scorching temperatures and punishing droughts have significantly reduced harvest yields. And, as a result, prices have surged. White truffles, for example, cost $1,000 per pound two years ago, but have now eclipsed to $6,000 per pound. I think it’s safe to say that their reign as the “world’s most expensive food” is very secure.
These costs are trickling down–forcing restaurants to decide if they want to raise their own prices, passing along the spikes to their diners as they work to rebuild after COVID losses, or remove truffles from the menu altogether.
Farmers are stepping up
Truffle farming is a long game of luck. It takes around a decade to grow a viable truffle, and the wrong kind of soil or too many competing fungi could sabotage the entire crop. American farmers have been working in earnest on their varieties since the 1970s and, finally, they are beginning to yield significant harvests.
Also, a successful truffle crop is completely contingent on a good nose–specifically, that of a dog or a pig. Part of Europe’s advantage in this regard is that they have centuries of experience to pass down from successful truffle hunters and their dogs. But, farmers in the US are (finally) getting the hang of it.
When it comes to truffles, scent is key–and, therefore, so is freshness. A truffle that is grown in the US can be delivered to a domestic restaurant overnight, if necessary. Whereas a truffle grown in Europe can take days to arrive. And, as the world grapples with ongoing supply chain issues due to COVID-19, even that timeframe is not a guarantee. So, having a supplier closer to home is not only attractive–it’s a game changer.
When it comes to truffles, I am a staunch believer that more is always better. So, I am very excited that the US could become a real player in the market. And while I am skeptical the region will become the preeminent leader of the truffle industry, I believe it will certainly shake things up.
Danilo Diazgranados is an independent investor in the global food and wine, financial services, real estate, and the hospitality sectors.