Caviar: Worldwide Marketing

As the worldwide Sturgeon populations markedly declined by the turn of the last century, particularly in the Caspian Sea, aquaculture Sturgeon production mushroomed around the world to fill the widening gap. At first, as with all things anew, these farmer-producers found themselves at odds with consumer mental barriers erected over centuries, which correlated Caviar with the Caspian, Russia, Persia, and the Wild Blue Yonder: Not conducive to a new paradigm of non-traditional domesticated Sturgeon Caviar raised on farms in places as unlikely as the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula.

Many felt that they now had to convince the market that their product was not an overpriced cheap knockoff. What made this difficult job seemingly insurmountable was that “Caviar”, as an exclusive nomenclature for Sturgeon eggs, had been left out in the cold to fend for itself under the good will and grace of a cutthroat market that did not respect the rights of the consumer to know what they were being sold. In those Wild West days of the roe, many other (obviously inferior species of) fish eggs were masqueraded as “Caviar” by unscrupulous companies, and many an innocent small enterprising fisherman/farmer who just did not know the difference. We forgive the latter.

In the end though, it was easier than anyone had expected, expert or otherwise, and faster than the market could react properly to, at least at the genesis. Yet, what else could be expected of a market facing 90% worldwide depletions of its wild stocks? We had to take it or leave it and after we tasted aquaculture, it was hard for most of us to leave (it). It was good. Just as. Caviar was still King of the Roe: The King was Dead! Long Live the King! And as with any founding royal looking for a foothold in a new kingdom, the timely implementation of a supportive legal system, the CITES in this case, working hand-in-hand with parties of interest and protecting the new rule, did the rest. It did not hurt either that there was already an anxious hungry market in place with a distribution system which was just as eager for this new paradigm to succeed as well.

The global market in Sturgeon aquaculture has subsequently grown to nearly a billion dollars in over a decade, forecasted to double in the coming one, if not all due to production increases as also with consumer competition vis-à-vis a growing domestic Chinese market. We note here though that due to the expansion and acceptance of a number of other Sturgeon roe as Caviar, different price levels are now available to a spectrum of consumers. Therefore, it would not be wrong to state that Caviar, as the most nutritious, luxurious, and expensive food, in general and particular, the world-over, is not as expensive when looking at the range of species and market prices that have come about due to the success of this modernized global aquaculture project. For example, some Caviars cost as little as (in Caviar terms) $1000 a kilo ($1 a gram), while others, like the wild Almas Albino Sturgeon Caviar, once reserved for Persian Shahs, can set the jetsetter back $35,000-$50,000 a kilo. At $35 to $50 a gram, no honest man can claim it is cheap, but if your jet is not a toy to you anymore but rather a flying home in the sky, then $50 a gram is a deal which can only get cheaper over time, even as it gets more expensive naturally.