'Ethical' caviar returns to Waitrose shelves

By Louise Barnett
Saturday 15 December 2007 01:00

Caviar is making a comeback at a food chain which dropped the delicacy a decade ago. Waitrose stopped selling caviar amid concerns that the Caspian Sea sturgeon population was facing extinction.

But after a 10-year absence, it is now launching sustainable caviar produced by farmed Siberian sturgeon in time for Christmas. The sustainable caviar comes from Maison Prunier, which has been producing the luxury product from fish farms in Bordeaux, south-west France, for more than a century.

Market experts say that, within two years, only farmed caviar will be available to consumers. Years years of overfishing has endangered Russia's sturgeon population and Beluga caviar from the Caspian Sea, which sells for about 495 for 50g, is already banned in some parts of the world.

Ten years ago, 450 tons of caviar were exported from the Caspian Sea. This year it was only 87 tons. Iran only managed to produce 45 tons this year, compared with 105 tons a decade ago.

The first deliveries of caviar from France are in 14 branches of Waitrose and the John Lewis food hall on London's Oxford Street. The most expensive type of caviar on sale at Waitrose, Heritage Caviar, will cost 800 for a 250g tin. A 50g tin of Traditional Caviar will set shoppers back 80. The 800 tins of caviar will be the food chain's most expensive available food item.

Jeremy Langley, Waitrose's specialist fish buyer, said: "For the last 10 years we have been looking for a high-quality equivalent to wild sturgeon products, and what we have got this Christmas is a very high quality product," he said.

Waitrose says the caviar could be rolled out to other branches and to Ocado, the online retailer which sells Waitrose products, if demand is strong enough.

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