Trend Watch: Sales of caviar are on the up

24 October 2023, 07:00 AM
  • A byword for luxury, caviar adds opulence to your offering and saltiness to sales. Sally-Jayne Wright finds out more
Trend Watch: Sales of caviar are on the up

In April, London’s first-ever caviar cafe and deli, Petrossian, opened in south Kensington, and in May, Elsinore launched Masago - orange caviar from capelin roe - into 191 Waitrose stores.

What’s behind the caviar trend?

    Asian-inspired cooking and make-at home sushi kits

      The popularity of sushi topped with salmon roe (Ikura sushi)

        Social media. Champagne and caviar ‘bumps’ went viral in 2022. Bumping is where you dab caviar on your hand, let it warm for a few seconds, throw it into your mouth and follow up with bubbly. 

          Consumers spending less on eating out and more on gifts and luxuries for home consumption

          What is caviar?

          In the UK there’s no strict definition. The word caviar is used equally for Oscietra Russian sturgeon eggs (50g for £110 at a Chelsea deli) and Lykkeberg Lumpfish roe (100g for £4.80 from Tesco online). However, there are two entirely separate markets: real caviar and more affordable fish roe.

          Isn’t real caviar the lightly salt-cured, unfertilised roe of sturgeon fish? 

          You’re right, and there are many types including Beluga, Ossetra and Sevruga. The genuine article is black, brown, graphite or olive, never red or orange. The golden-yellow eggs of the small Albino sturgeon - £4,000 a kilo - are an exception.

          What does ‘malossol’ mean?

          It’s a Russian term for quality meaning ‘little salt’ - traditionally used to distinguish higher grade caviar from ordinary caviar.

          Why does real caviar cost up to £100 for a 30g jar?

          It is never pasteurised so more fragile than fish roe. Unopened, it has about three months’ shelf life.

          Tarek Azabbi of Caviar Elite supplies Antonius-branded Russian and Siberian caviar to Partridges deli in London. He says, “It takes patience and skill to hand-rear sturgeon, and it can take 12-14 years for the females to reach egg-laying age. Overfeed to rear them faster, and the eggs will be fatty.” He refers to those farmers who for profit, harvest eggs when fish are only five to eight years old. 

          How do you find a caviar supplier?

          Partridges’ manager Androulla Lambrou says, “You don’t find a caviar supplier, they find you!” Partridges buys real caviar from Caviar Elite on a sale-or-return basis, and their minimal stocks can be replenished within 24 hours, ensuring freshness. Caviar Elite provides gift packaging and in-store tastings.

          Who buys this super-premium product?

          Azabbi says, “Three types of customer: those for whom caviar is part of their food culture such as Russians, Ukrainians, Iranians and Poles; wealthy show-offs; and gourmets treating themselves.”

          Is real caviar production sustainable?

          Wild sturgeon fish are critically endangered, so farming sturgeon for caviar offers some protection. With most caviar production fish are killed, though the fish is often sold and eaten. Sturgeon tastes like halibut.

          Can they harvest the eggs without killing the fish?

          Yes, though experts told us ‘eggs from the second harvest aren’t nearly as good’. If your customers would like to buy British and support a conservation project, then stock K.C. Caviar, produced in Yorkshire.  Lifelong angler John Addey aspires to protect two of the most endangered sturgeon types; in the wild this pre-historic fish lives 60 to 100 years. 

          We did a taste test and liked buttery Antonius Oscietra caviar best on its own. The marine saltiness of K.C. Caviar works on blinis with sour cream. 

          How to sell real caviar

            Quality is everything. Customers paying top dollar expect the best

              Oscietra outsells Siberian

                Bundle as a gift with vodka, fizz or mother-of-pearl caviar spoons

                  Check labels carefully. Fakery abounds

                  Fish roe products to try

                  Elsinore, owned by Golden Acre Foods, offers masago, lumpfish, trout and salmon caviar. Ronde des Mers and Le Lien Ltd are other brands seen at top delis.

                  Is there such a thing as vegan caviar?

                  Yes. A Danish company, Jens Moller Products, makes an extensive range of seaweed caviar called Cavi-Art. The brandwill be at the Plant-Based Expo this November. Its wholesale partnership with Vegetarian Express starts in late Autumn.

                  If the main purpose is garnish, then Burren Balsamics’ Citrus Pearl Bursts may well fit the bill. They ‘add a vibrant burst of colour and flavour to smoked fish and cocktails’.

                  How to make the most of the caviar trend

                    Would your supplier subsidise paid-for, sushi and canape-making demos and in-store tastings?

                      Introduce a Scandinavian brunch with a luxury price to match

                        Black lumpfish roe outsells salmon roe, likely because it costs half as much (Elsinore)

                          Younger customers may prefer Doritos to blinis as a carrier

                            Sales peak at Valentine’s, Father’s Day, Easter and Christmas

                            Will the caviar trend last?

                            It will take time as consumers lack confidence. Casper Gorniok, Product Brand Manager of Golden Acre Foods says the “UK palate is ‘cautious’ about caviar and indeed fish in general”. Yet 40 years ago, the idea of eating raw fish in sushi was radical. With award-winning masago, Elsinore aims to tap into the phenomenal growth of the UK sushi market, the volume of which rose 29.8% YOY to December 2022 (Nielsen IQ).

                            Most consumers think of caviar as eye-wateringly expensive and exclusive. Time to sell them value alternatives and offer how-to-eat tips.



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