Riverton’s Mushroom Man Taking His Funky Fungus Drinks To Huge Vegas Show

Daniel Stewart, aka Riverton’s “Mushroom Man,” hopes an invite to one of the world’s largest food shows in Las Vegas will help launch his High Country Fungus line of mushroom coffees, cocoas and chai lattes.

RJ
Renée Jean

December 17, 20237 min read

Daniel Steward, aka Riverton's "Mushroom Man."
Daniel Steward, aka Riverton's "Mushroom Man." (High Country Fungus via Facebook)

Daniel Stewart, aka Riverton’s “Mushroom Man,” will soon make a trip to Las Vegas, but he’s definitely hoping what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay there.

Stewart’s High Country Fungus is one of two Wyoming specialty food producers that have earned an invitation to the Winter Fancy Food Show, one of the largest specialty food shows in North America. The other is Red Pony Salsa out of Buffalo.

Stewart will bring some of his trendy and tasty mushroom beverages to the food show, which happens twice a year, once in the winter in Vegas and once in the summer in New York City.

Each of the shows brings thousands of specialty food producers together into one place, where more than 17,000 buyers are all sampling and shopping for what they hope will be their next irresistible bestseller.

Given that thousands of specialty food producers are meeting up with several thousand buyers all in one place, it’s not a stretch at all to say that the hot food trends of America, and then the world, start out at the Fancy Food Show. That makes an invitation to be part of the show’s Incubator Village in the New, Now, Next area a huge foot in thousands of doors all at once.

It’s a tremendous opportunity for a beginning business like High Country Fungus, Stewart told Cowboy State Daily.

“It’s a little bit scary for me to think I’m going to be at the center of 17,000 people,” he said. “But it’s really exciting, too. Sometimes opportunity knocks so loud, you just have to, you just gotta do it.”

Stewart had already been scaling his product online sales to as many as seven states, as well at the Fremont Local Market that formed under the umbrella of Wyoming’s Food freedom Act.

Stewart credits the market and the Food Freedom Act with helping him start to grow his mushroom business, and he hopes the Fancy Food Show is a shot at hitting a whole new level of production. He hopes to see his blends of mushroom coffee, cocoa and chi latte distributed throughout Wyoming, and expand from there.

  • Daniel Stewart packeges up some mushroom chai latte.
    Daniel Stewart packeges up some mushroom chai latte. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)
  • Exact amounts of Daniel Stewart's High Five Blend are put into bags for each mushroom beverage.
    Exact amounts of Daniel Stewart's High Five Blend are put into bags for each mushroom beverage. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Mushrooms Are, Well, Mushrooming

Mushrooms are having an “it” moment right now, and that’s part of what’s brought this opportunity to Stewart’s business, High Country Fungus. Mushrooms have great health benefits, and their popularity is something that was highlighted recently by the Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter Panel, which annually calls out the hot food trends for the specialty food industry, which boasts $194 billion in annual sales.

Mushroom beverages are steamy hot right now — think hot cocoa, dreamy chai lattes and interesting coffee blends that mushroom advocates see as, quite simply, health in a cup.

Stewart himself bumped into the trend this summer when he was selling fresh mushrooms at the farmers market. Dozens of customers kept asking him for mushroom beverages.

So, Stewart decided to try making a mushroom beverage and see how it would go over.

He started with a personal favorite, hot cocoa, and mixed it with what he calls his “High Five” blend. That’s a mixture of the five most popular mushrooms for health.

The hot cocoa “was probably my favorite in the journey of sourcing products, because I really like cocoa,” Stewart said. “So, I got to try a bunch of different cocoas before I settled on what we’re using.”

Stewart went with an instant drink concept because, as a hiker and backpacker himself, he knew he could appreciate something that’s easy to do while he’s out on the trail.

The hot cocoa mushroom blend proved to be an instant bestseller, and he was soon adding other instant mushroom drink mixes to the menu — chai, coffee blends, and one that he calls mushroom mud, which is just the high-five blend without any sugar. That makes it good for throwing into smoothies or basically any other favorite drink and, since there’s no sugar added, it caters to the low-carb and keto crowds.

The High Five Blend

Stewart’s mushroom base includes five of the mushrooms that provide the most benefits — lion’s mane, turkey tail, reishi, chaga and cordyceps. He infuses this base with a variety of flavors to achieve drinks for different tastes.

Mushroom extracts are believed to help with a wide array of things — improved concentration, fighting cancer and, this is a big one for Stewart, inflammation.

“Lion’s mane is being studied for its neurotropic ability,” Stewart said. “So, it’s neurogenesis and it’s like helping to build brain pathways, new neural pathways. It’s helping with cognition, and it’s reducing brain fog.”

Turkey tail, meanwhile, is shown to help fight certain cancers and tumors, while cordyceps is showing some efficacy when it comes to building up immune systems.

“The source of all these is kind of, you know, what studies are being done with these mushrooms as a natural medicine,” Stewart said. “And for us, that might be something new, but for other cultures, it’s been part of their lives for a thousand years.

“And it’s been fun for me to hear reports from our customers about how this is working for them. Maybe they had, you know, a stiff shoulder or maybe they can move their knees a little better.”

Healing From Mushrooms

Stewart has a personal interest in the healing powers of mushrooms. He had an accident a few years back while picking mushrooms that forced him have his knee rebuilt. That has given him a little “storm indicator” in his knees, at what he feels is much too young an age.

But he doesn’t want to take a lot of over-the-counter pain relievers every time a storm comes up. Long-term use of what are called NSAIDs comes with nasty side effects, like peptic ulcer disease, acute renal failure and stroke or myocardial infarction.

What Stewart discovered over time was that if he made mushrooms a regular part of his day, he didn’t need those medications as often.

“It’s just remarkable to me that you can just take some mushrooms and experience the same kind of relief,” he said. “When I’m having my mushroom coffee, or mushrooms, you know, I just feel better. I feel a little more limber.”

But mushrooms aren’t always an easy sell, despite their trending popularity with the health food crowd.

“Maybe they don’t like the texture. Maybe they don’t like the flavor profile. But they still want the health benefits of mushrooms,” he said. “So, a beverage is kind of a fun solution to that, so now we’ve got some yummy beverages and it’s that little spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.”

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Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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RJ

Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter