Caviars have been considered an extreme luxury for thousands of years. And, as everyone knows, they have carried a correspondingly high price. Until Imperia, that price has kept caviar consumption in very restricted channels and well away from most people.
Our view is radically different. We believe in ethical production, superior quality, affordable pricing, and easy delivery to your doorstep. Whether in New York, Los Angeles, or Boise, we can deliver the world's best caviar at a fair price to your table.
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Before Imperia, most people had only seen caviar in Hollywood photos or films. As famous as it is, most people have never tasted caviar. Caviar's rarity has had a meaningful impact on price and production. In contrast, we are all about meticulous, sustainable production and fair-pricing caviar.
Imperia Caviar is undoubtedly for special occasions. However, we have intentionally priced our superior caviar collections to allow everyday celebrations. Let's explore the cost of caviar and what makes this delicacy so expensive.
How Much Is Caviar?
When you buy caviar from a reputable source, you ensure receipt of the real deal at the best price. You should expect to pay around $40 per ounce for Royal Ossetra or our Kaluga Hybrid Reserve. That compares very favorably to others who can charge 10 times as much! Caviar prices fluctuate, so it is best to check our shop directly.
Less-expensive caviar does not mean poorer quality caviar, nor does higher cost mean better caviar per gram. Imperia fish are raised in efficient conditions and enjoy the highest quality of life. This shows up in the quality and taste of our product well as our accessible pricing.
Of course, the "best caviar" depends on your personal taste. Some prefer Kaluga over Ossetra, others Ossetra over Kaluga or maybe others like Sevruga or the Siberian sturgeon best. Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Caviar's price depends on the brand, farming methods, and sturgeon species. The rarer the fish and the more labor-intensive the process, the higher the cost will be.
Why Is Caviar so Expensive?
There are several reasons caviar prices are so high. Like any product, the more a company spends on raising, harvesting, processing, and shipping a product, the more expensive it will be. Many factors influence caviar's cost and its limited availability. Let's break down why caviar costs so much.
Challenges of Sturgeon
Seeing that caviar is defined as the salted, unfertilized eggs of the sturgeon, it makes sense to start with the fish itself when looking at the reasons for the cost of the product.
First of all, the sturgeon is a fish in high demand with a dwindling population. That factor alone makes it difficult to ensure a steady supply of healthy female fish to provide quality caviar worldwide. Fishing is no longer a reliable, sustainable method for catching sturgeon, so we have to turn to farming sturgeon in a way that protects the fish population without cutting off the supply of caviar.
Then there's the issue of these ancient species' size, sensitivity, and temperament. Sturgeon vary in length and weight, but generally speaking, these are massive fish straight out of the era of dinosaurs. It's not uncommon to see young sturgeon the size of a tall man, while the biggest of the bunch can grow up to 20 feet and well over 2,000 pounds.
These fish are quite affected by their environment and stick closely to their optimal living conditions — whether it's brackish rivers and channels or calm coastal regions. Without the right environment, sturgeon won't thrive, and their egg production and quality will suffer.
On top of that, sturgeon take a long time to reach sexual maturity, meaning caviar producers need to map out their strategies when farm-raising these fish. Since fishing is no longer a sustainable option, innovative aquaculture techniques are needed to keep things moving.
Eco-friendly farms are built to replicate the natural conditions of the sturgeon, optimizing variables like temperature, acidity, food, socialization, and sunlight. The more harmoniously a producer works with nature, the better the final product.
With all that said, you get some context for why caviar is priced so high — sturgeon are not easy fish to manage, and their endangered status adds a great deal of pressure to producers aiming for long-term sustainability.
Harvesting and Production
Aside from the challenges of the sturgeon itself, the best caviar is the result of manual production. Because stakes are high and margins are thin, caviar producers need to master the harvest and curing process to minimize wasted time and product.
The retrieval of the caviar from the belly of the sturgeon is the first step in a labor-intensive journey, followed by the sifting, rinsing, and filtering process. All these stages must be performed by a highly-skilled expert who can handle the pressure and technique.
To receive a high-grade and earn top dollar on the marketplace, caviar needs to be extremely fresh with a firm, uniform structure throughout. Broken or misshapen eggs will result in a penalty that reduces the product's value, so proper harvesting and curing are key. Every egg must be intact and perfectly shaped to get its maximum valuation.
Speaking of salt, top-tier caviar is known for its minimal salt content, as indicated by the term "malossol" on the label of pricey jars and tins. Producers cannot mask the caviar quality (or lack thereof) behind the salt and, therefore, must focus on the fundamentals.
Caviar producers take extreme pride in their work and the best producers in the world draw on a mix of technology and tradition to achieve stellar results. The combination of hard work, commitment, long-term planning, and precise skilled labor make caviar production a costly and time-consuming affair, which further explains the steep prices.
The next time you scoop a pile of caviar onto your mother-of-pearl spoon and layer it onto a saltine or blini, just think about how much time, energy, effort, and care went into bringing that pristine product to your table.
Taste, Texture, and Nutrition
The price of goods and services is determined by what people are willing to pay, how good the quality is and how difficult the product is to get. Caviar is the perfect example of "getting what you pay for" since the product is so unique and exquisite. Compared to run-of-the-mill roe from salmon or trout, caviar is on a completely different level.
If you have never tasted caviar before, it's not easy to explain in words. Imagine waves of different flavors and textures that come and go on the palate, taking you on a journey of the senses in each bite.
Connoisseurs recognize that caviar, like wine, reveals different dimensions of flavor from first taste to the lingering finish. You might find hints of butter, nuts, earthiness, herbs, minerals, and just a touch of salt to keep you going.
There's also the otherworldly texture of caviar that has no proper comparison in the culinary realm. Some beads are quite firm and deliver a signature bursting sensation, while others melt together on the tongue to create a creamy texture like no other.
Since no two batches of caviar are exactly alike — even from the same species and producer — every jar has something new to offer and allows you to expand your palate in unseen directions.
While nutrition might not be front-of-mind when thinking about caviar, it is a certified superfood with an amazingly healthy profile of macro and micronutrients. High in protein and healthy fat with zero carbs and absolutely loaded with minerals, there are few natural foods on the planet that have this kind of nutrition panel. Caviar might not constitute a full meal, but its powerful health benefits affect mood, energy, and even libido.
Overall, caviar's unique flavors, textures and nutrition profile make it a highly sought-after food and contribute to its expensive costs.
While caviar is a luxury and not a staple of most people's diet, it is in high demand globally. The econometric characteristics of high demand coupled with restricted supply impact the price. Caviar producers know that their product is desirable, so they can charge extremely high prices without losing out on customers.
Imperia aims to break the high-price caviar monopoly with magnificent caviars at affordable prices for this usually expensive food. We use sustainable fishing practices and rigorous quality standards to produce top-quality caviar without inflating its price.
It is simply the right thing to do.
Does Fair Caviar Pricing Mean Lower Quality?
Definitely not! While caviar is undeniably a premium food, pricing is not really related to quality. Expensive caviar carries that price tag due to fish rarity, high demand, and labor-intensive production.
Why Is Caviar a Delicacy?
While we've covered what makes caviar so expensive, how did we get here? It all comes down to overfishing.
Caviar has been eaten for centuries across several different cultures. After Henry Schacht founded his caviar business in America in 1873, caviar's popularity in the U.S. exploded. Overfishing and high demand led to the sturgeon almost becoming extinct in America by 1910. This halted production and made caviar hard to get in the U.S., turning it into a luxury item.
Similarly, poaching, over-fishing and pollution in the Caspian Sea created a sturgeon shortage by the late 1990s. Bans and limits were placed on sturgeon fishing to protect the species, making caviar an even more expensive luxury item. Today, sustainable fish farming practices have made caviar more accessible, although it's still more limited than it used to be and carries a high price tag.
What Is the Most Expensive Caviar?
While producing caviar accounts for much of its high cost, some caviars go beyond these prices due to their exclusivity and prestige. The rarer a fish is, the more expensive its caviar will be. Getting your hands on some of the world's rarest caviars can mean spending thousands of dollars just for a small taste. These caviars come from particular types of sturgeon that meet rigorous standards.
Here are some prices you can expect to pay for the world's best:
Mainly sourced from the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, this sturgeon yields the most sought-after caviar on the planet and is currently an endangered species.
Prepare to pay top dollar for beluga caviar, well over $200 an ounce and sometimes more.
Almas caviar is harvested from the Iranian Beluga sturgeon. To qualify as Almas caviar, the sturgeon must be albino and between 60 and 100 years old. Additionally, the fish must come from the southern part of the Caspian Sea. All of these factors make Almas caviar extremely rare and highly expensive. Some Almas caviar is sold for almost $35,000 per kilogram.
Slightly smaller than the beluga but more abundant, ossetra is arguably the world's most popular caviar. Ossetra (also spelled osetra caviar) has long been prized in Iran and Russia.
It can be found for around $90 an ounce, with prices ranging much higher for reserves.
One of the biggest beasts in the sturgeon family, the Kaluga makes its home in the Amur River and yields some very impressive pearls.
Since Kaluga is critically endangered, its caviar will cost you between $60 and $80 an ounce.
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At about $45 an ounce, sevruga caviar still isn't cheap, but it's still a fine delicacy from a smaller wild sturgeon species. This is a great way to try out top-tier caviar without going overboard on cost.
If you can splurge on any of these caviars, don't hesitate to try them out!
Caviar lovers enjoy the fact that they are indulging in a prestigious dining experience, but you don't need to buy certified caviar to experience something similar. Here's the thing, though — those prices are high for a reason, and no alternative is going to satisfy you like real-deal caviar will.
Salmon and trout roes are flavorful and highly nutritious, even if they may not come with the prestige of caviar. They aren't as complex flavor-wise as true caviar, but they offer a good-enough texture and taste for their price point.
It's very easy to find these products across the country and you can walk away with several ounces for less than $50 in many cases. But again, for genuine quality, you want true caviar, and there are definitely people who can tell the difference. Like caviar, you probably won't find roe in your grocery store — you'll need to order it online or try it at a restaurant.
Other species like whitefish, capelin, and lumpfish also yield tasty roe varieties that can be bought for around $5 an ounce as an entry-level option. Just be aware that these products are not the best representations of caviar at large.
If you just want to experience the bursting sensation of tiny pearls but don't need that fishy flavor, there are also many faux-caviar options on the market that fit the bill. Finger limes are a great example of a naturally occurring fruit that bears luxurious little "eggs" packed with a big citrus taste. Try out seaweed caviar to maintain that salty flavor.
You can also fool around with molecular gastronomy methods that yield imitation caviar pearls from watermelons, cantaloupes, and veggies. Additionally, boba or tapioca pearls are a popular addition to teas and can add that round texture to your food.
Garnishes and Storage
There's no doubt that the world's finest caviars are best enjoyed with minimal accouterments. But if you want to get more mileage out of your caviar, no matter the price, you'll want to load up on garnishes and recipes that make it worth your while.
Blini, triangular toast, puff pastry, crème fraîche, and potato are some classic caviar accompaniments that bulk up each bite and help make your supply of pricey pearls last longer.
Many famous chefs are also known for ladling a scoop of caviar on top of a light, creamy angel hair pasta to spread that flavor throughout the main course.
Delicate, cold vegetable soups are another excellent canvas for caviar, and the structure allows you to enjoy a few pearls in each spoonful rather than consuming it in heaps.
Get inventive with your caviar's supporting cast in the kitchen, and you can enjoy the ingredient over a few days instead of going through the whole jar in one sitting.
Pop a bottle of Champagne with your tin of caviar to feel like you're in the best restaurants in New York City or Paris. Vodka also pairs well with premium caviar, especially if you buy caviar that's popular in Eastern Europe.
At the end of the day, whether you're eating caviar from Siberian sturgeons (acipenser baerii), Malossol caviar, or trying salmon roe, the best dining experience will come down to personal preferences. Find a caviar treat that makes your taste buds sing.
Finally, always properly care for your caviar so none goes to waste. Store it in the cold part of the fridge before opening and make sure to enjoy it all in under three days.
The Best Affordable Caviar
It is no secret that caviar has been extremely expensive. It has been treated as a rare resource, and producers have charged whatever the market would bear. In that way, social excitement has historically been generated through exclusivity.
We hold a genuinely different view. We believe that the retail price of caviar can and must go down. We think that companies charging high prices for caviar are, quite possibly, tone-deaf. The main thing to us is the spectacular taste.
It is taste, not tuxedos or evening gowns, that brings us back to top-grade sturgeon caviar again and again. We think you can tell the difference between gorgeous caviar at an unnecessarily inflated price vs. a fair deal. (Hint, Imperia is an uncompromising red Ferrari at a high-quality Honda price.)
Our principles are sustainable and ethical caviar production, premium quality, rational pricing, and superior distribution. Caviar is and always has been a delicacy.
Today, Imperia Caviar can be enjoyed by many people. Your purchasing decisions can help push producers toward ethical production and harvesting to control the caviar food chain. Sample our sustainably-farmed, delicious caviars today.
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Last updated 11/09/22