White Truffle Oil Supply Chain – How does this fancy mushroom get around?
How stuff gets produced, transported, and consumed by the end-customer is fascinating to me. Supply Chain Management is a deceptively simple concept, but in practice it is quite complex.
Every once in a while, tracing the supply chain of a product or a good is instructive. Take the White Truffle Mushroom as an example.
The White Truffle is a very rare mushroom, primarily grown in Alba, Italy. A pound of White Truffle can go for $3,000 USD – very expensive. I’ve never seen or tasted a White Truffle, but apparently the White Truffle is in heavy demand, with the likes of Jay-Z (Shawn Corey Carter) and Sean John Combs (Diddy, P. Diddy, Puff Daddy) love them and request White Truffle on their meals often (according to Time Magazine).
White Truffle is harvested and different products are produced from it, other than food, such as White Truffle Shampoo, White Truffle Oil, and others.
So, how does the White Truffle go from being harvested to being served on a plate at a 5 star restaurant?
The White Truffle Supply Chain Infographic shows us how the White Truffle travels from one part of the world to somebody’s plate at a fancy restaurant.
History of White Truffle
The “white truffle” or “Alba madonna” (Tuber magnatum) comes from the Langhe area of the Piedmont region in northern Italy and, most famously, in the countryside around the city of Alba. It is also found in Croatia, on the Istria peninsula in the Motovun forest alongside Mirna river. Growing symbiotically with oak, hazel, poplar and beech and fruiting in autumn, they can reach 12 cm diameter and 500 g, though are usually much smaller. The flesh is pale cream or brown with white marbling. Like the French black truffles, Italian white truffles are very highly esteemed. The white truffle market in Alba is busiest in the months of October and November, where a 1.6-pound white truffle sold to “The Cody” of southern California for $150,000 on Nov 8, 2009 during the 79th White Truffle Festival. In 2001, the Tuber magnatum truffles sold for between US$1,000 and $2,200 per pound; as of December 2009 they were being sold at €10,200 per kilogram.
Giancarlo Zigante and his dog Diana found one of the largest truffles in the world near Buje, Croatia. The truffle weighed 1.31 kilograms (2 lb 14 oz) and has entered the Guinness Book of Records.
The record price paid for a single white truffle was set in December 2007, when Macau casino owner Stanley Ho paid US$330,000 (£165,000) for a specimen weighing 1.5 kilograms (3.3 lb), discovered by Luciano Savini and his dog Rocco. One of the largest truffles found in decades, it was unearthed near Pisa and sold at an auction held simultaneously in Macau, Hong Kong and Florence.
The Tuber magnatum pico white truffle is found mostly in northern and central Italy, while the Tuber borchii, or whitish truffle, is found in Tuscany, Romagna, the Marche and Molise. Neither of these is as aromatic as those from Piedmont.
The “black truffle” or “black Périgord truffle” (Tuber melanosporum) is named after the Périgord region in France and grows exclusively with oak. Specimens can be found in late autumn and winter, reaching 7 cm in diameter and weighing up to 100 g. Production is almost exclusively European, with France accounting for 45%, Spain 35%, Italy 20%, and small amounts from Slovenia, Croatia and the Australian states of Tasmania and Western Australia (see below). In 1900, France produced around 1,000 metric tonnes (1,100 short tons) of Tuber melanosporum. Production has considerably diminished in the past century, and is now around 20 metric tonnes (22 short tons) per year, with peaks at 46 metric tonnes (50 short tons) in the best years. About 80% of the French production comes from southeast France: upper Provence (départements of Vaucluse and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence), part of Dauphiné (département of Drôme), and part of Languedoc (département of Gard); 20% of the production comes from southwest France: Quercy (département of Lot) and Périgord. The largest truffle market in France (and probably also in the world) is at Richerenches in Vaucluse. The largest truffle market in southwest France is at Lalbenque in Quercy. These markets are busiest in the month of January, when the black truffles have their highest perfume. As of December 2009, black truffles were sold for about €1,000 per kilo in a farmer’s market and €3,940 per kilo in a retail saler.