A report about a project to market amazing edible pine forest mushrooms from Pinus Radiata conducted by the marginalized community of San Isidro de Marayhuaca Incahuasi with the Peruvian government agency AGRORURAL, sparked in entrepreneur Armando Chang the idea to partner with them to develop a social enterprise. With a solid experience in finance, administration and marketing and as restaurateur with an Asian background that appreciates mushrooms, Mr. Chang immediately saw potential in for these attractive, fleshy and tasteful delicacies that provide high protein content (20%) complex carbohydrates (54%) and low fat (3.6%). The community project was initiated by engineer Bernardino Lalopu, today general manager at La Campera. The business provides income opportunities to support over 850 people from an isolated region in the Peruvian highlands. All processing is done by the community, at 3,300 mts above sea level, where before the reforestation program there was no other stable source of income or agriculture”, said Mr. Chang. “The planting of seedlings of the Pinus Radiata, collecting the mushrooms by hand, a low impact processing and packaging is entirely conducted by the Marayhuaca Incahuasi community.
Mr. Chang has been promoting La Campera since 2009, developing a line of gourmet foods that includes sun dried mushrooms, pastas, sauces, tapenades with and without mushrooms, and canned trout, sardines and fruits from other projects in the highlands. La Campera produces over 40 MT of mushrooms in a reforested area of 6.2 thousand hectares and exports 99% of its production, mainly to Spain (40%), Brazil (30%) and France (19%). Thanks to the media and celebrity chefs like Gaston Acurio the local market has been open to learn how to incorporate the Marayhuaca mushrooms into the diverse and delicious Peruvian cuisine. Last year at Expoalimentaria, the top fair and platform for gourmet, ethnic, organic and native foods in Peru and the region, La Campera was selected as one of the most innovative brands exhibiting. “We received great interest from buyers at the Winter Fancy Foods in San Francisco and will explore the Canadian market during Sial Canada this coming april”, said Mr. Chang.
Edible mushrooms are known for their health benefits and taste. They make a great ingredient in many recipes and provide an excellent source of protein comparable to meat. With the growing market interest in nutritious ingredients and whole foods, Mr. Chang and his team expects to expand its market share and to incorporate other well known ingredients from the Peruvian highlands in the line offered by La Campera.