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Alert Issued on Honey Shipped to U.S. From Turkey

The True Source Honey Certification™ Program, whose mission it is to protect consumers, retailers and manufacturers from illegally sourced honey, has issued an alert concerning honey labeled as coming from Turkey.

“We advise honey importers, retailers and manufacturers to proceed carefully and consider additional safeguards if they are buying low-priced honey labeled as produced in Turkey,” said True Source Honey Executive Director Gordon Marks.

The United States has had repeated problems with honey that is illegally shipped from China to avoid anti-dumping duties. The quality and purity of this honey is also suspect since it is not sold according to regular protocols. Such honey has often been shipped through – and labeled as produced within – a country other than China. This illegal practice threatens the U.S. honey industry by undercutting fair market prices and damaging honey’s reputation for quality and safety.

True Source is flagging Turkey due to increasing amounts of honey being shipped from that country at well below market prices. This trend is similar to that observed in past circumvention schemes.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. imported more than four million pounds of honey from Turkey in 2013, or about one percent of the volume Americans consume each year. This volume from Turkey has increased almost 10-fold in three years. More importantly, Turkish honey that is exported to the United States is valued at $1.27 per pound when traded into the U.S. (U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of Census) and at $2.13 per pound when traded into the European Union (2014 YTD, Eurostat).  Such a significant discrepancy in price based upon destination rather than origin is uncommon in the international honey market. U.S.-produced white honey is trading at $2.08 per pound, according to the most recently available data from USDA (September 2014).

“The leading indicator for circumvented Chinese honey is honey traded on the international market at rates substantially below the prevalent market value,” said Marks.

Marks also noted that U.S. companies should be aware of the risk of prosecution for customs fraud if circumstances indicate that they purchased honey knowing it had been illegally imported. Recent federal court cases (USAA Northern District of Illinois Press Release,February 20, 2013) suggest the federal government now expects that all U.S. users and distributors of honey imports have already implemented and are maintaining rigorous supply chain audit and inspection procedures as a matter of course.

A number of nations have been implicated in past circumvention schemes. In a 2013 press release associated with charges against two large U.S. packers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Illinois, noted, “The honey was variously described falsely as sugars and syrups instead of Chinese-origin honey, and or as pure honey having originated in Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Thailand and Vietnam, instead of China.”

The True Source Honey Certification Program is an industry-supported, voluntary program established to combat the problem of illegally shipped honey. To date, there are no Turkish exporters that are True Source Certified. The program, which uses an independent third-party audit system, has been applauded by U.S. beekeepers and honey industry leadership because it provides traceability from hive to table, helping ensure the food safety and security of the honey used in North America. Companies that are True Source Certified now represent about one-third of honey sold in North America.

“Honey packers and importers that become True Source Certified are held to the highest sourcing standards – verified by outside auditors to ensure that all honey purchases are openly declared and that no illegally circumvented Chinese honey enters their supply chain,” said Marks.

The True Source Certified™ logo on honey packages ensures that honey has been independently certified. Further information, including a search function to check honey products, can be found at www.TrueSourceHoney.com.

This story was also published in Food & Food Equipment News, another publication of Oser Communications Group.

Oregon Growers Launches New Look

Oregon Growers has recently launched with a new proprietary jar as well as a new cap and updated label. “While the original jar and label has served us well for the past 10 years, we felt that it was time for an update,” says Dave Gee, Oregon Growers founding partner. The new cap features a picturesque drawing of the Hood River valley, where much of the fruit is sourced directly from family farmers, and Mt Hood in the background. The new label retains the familiar mural and hand-drawn fruit, but has an updated logo and additional product attributes. Oregon Growers “While the packaging has grown up as we approach our 10th year in business, the product that we make remains the same premium quality that you have come to expect from Oregon Growers,” says Gee. Retailers should expect to see the new look rolling out this month, with Bristol Farms in southern California launching in November with the new look.

Lem Butler, Sam Lewontin Win at Big Eastern Coffee Competition

On November 21-23, around 80 coffee professionals from the East Coast participated in the Big Eastern Coffee Competition in Durham, North Carolina. Lem Butler, Counter Culture’s head of wholesale customer support and barista trainer of the Carolinas, placed first in the Southeast Regional Barista Competition, his fifth win in his coffee career. Butler has worked with Counter Culture in Durham since 2007. Sam Lewontin, barista at NYC’s Everyman Espresso, won the Northeast Regional Barista Competition using Counter Culture coffee. Butler and Lewontin will advance to the U.S. Coffee Championships with a first-round bye in Long Beach, California, in February 2015.
Twelve baristas competed using Counter Culture’s coffees, and in addition to Butler and Lewontin, seven of these competitors made it to the finals. In the SERBC: Anna Utevsky from Joule Coffee (Raleigh, North Carolina) came in third; Nathan Nerswick of Empire State South (Atlanta) came in fourth; and Micah Sherer of Tandem Creperie & Coffeehouse (Travelers Rest, South Carolina) came in fifth. In the NERBC: Carlos Morales from Third Rail Coffee (New York City) placed third and Erika Vonie from Everyman Espresso (New York City) finished fourth. In the Southeast Regional Brewers Cup: Jack Snyder of Northside Social (Arlington, Virginia) finished fourth and Henry Boyd of Morning Times (Raleigh, North Carolina) came in sixth. Additional competitors using Counter Culture coffees included: Jenny Bonchak, Slingshot Coffee (Raleigh, North Carolina); Steph Caronna, La Farm Bakery (Cary, North Carolina); Seth Cook, Northside Social (Arlington, Virginia); Timm Jones, Jubala Coffee (Raleigh, North Carolina); and Joshua Maitz, Peregrine Espresso (Washington, D.C.). See link here for full list of results.
At the Barista Competition, baristas competed in front of four sensory judges, two technical judges and one head judge as they prepared and served four espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature espresso beverages during a 15-minute race against the clock. Butler competed with AA-grade Thiriku (Nyeri, Kenya), roasted by Counter Culture’s Eddie Green and Kyle Tush, as his espresso for his signature beverage. For his cappuccinos, Butler combined 70 percent AA grade with 30 percent AB grade that was roasted two points darker “to focus more on balancing between sweetness and body in the cappuccino.” Butler was previously named Southeast Regional Barista in 2005, 2007, 2010, and 2012. Lewontin competed with Counter Culture’s Finca Los Alpes from Aida Battle in El Salvador (also roasted by Kyle Tush) as his espresso, noting that the “nectarine and grapefruit” notes balanced a “beautiful sweetness and crisp acidity.”
At the Brewers Cup, competitors were judged in two rounds by skilled coffee tasters. The first round was a blind tasting; the competitors all brewed the same coffee on their chosen manual brewing devices. Those who advanced to the second round brewed and presented their chosen coffee to the judges’ panel.
The Big Eastern Event is one of three Super Regional Coffee Competitions taking place across the country. The Big Western took place October 7-10 in Rancho Mirage, California, and the Big Central took place November 7-9 in Minneapolis. The winners of each competition go on to compete in the U.S. Coffee Championships at the SCAA’s 27th Annual Event, February 19-22, 2015, in Long Beach, California. The winner of each U.S. Coffee Championship moves on to compete in the 2015 World Barista Championship and World Brewers Cup in Seattle, April 9-12, 2015.
Open to the public and free to attend, the event also hosted opportunities for attendees to learn more about the world of specialty coffee and to taste coffee from local and regional roasters. The Big Eastern was sponsored by Counter Culture Coffee and Wilbur Custis Co. and produced by the Barista Guild of America and the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Specialty Egg Market Continues to Grow Despite Label Confusion

 

By David Bernard

 

SpecialtyEggs1-MW for webSometimes free-range eggs are not really so free range after all. While the growing specialty egg industry has advanced animal welfare and supplied retailers with more nutritious, flavorful eggs to sell, it has also misled at times, and there continues to be confusion among consumers over the various types of eggs. With no legal standards as to what constitutes most of the main types of specialty eggs, including free-range, cage-free and pasture-raised, retailers can end up selling eggs laid by hens that are not treated as well as one might think.

The term “free-range” is generally taken to mean that hens have access to the outdoors. It does not necessarily mean, however, that the bird actually goes outdoors. “Free range often means there is just a small hole allowing passage from indoors to outdoors,” said Dan Brooks, Director of Marketing and Communications for Vital Farms, a national specialty egg producer based in Austin, Texas. “However, the birds are often given no encouragement to go outdoors, and the small hole inherently makes it difficult for the bird to get outside. Or a producer might let the birds outside, but only for a small amount of time each day.”

For many consumers, free-range is an attractive term that conjures images of wide open spaces and grass-covered hills where hens wander freely. However, that definition more closely applies to another type of specialty egg: pasture-raised. Vital Farms, the only third-party certified national producer of pasture-raised eggs, as defined by respected verifier Certified Humane, provides 108 square feet of outdoor space per bird. In addition, the company rotates hens between areas that contain fresh grass and feed. Unlike typical commodity egg-laying hens, the company’s birds are not treated with hormones or antibiotics.

Pasture-raised eggs provide a wealth of benefits for consumers. Compared to commodity eggs from caged hens, pasture-raised eggs have been demonstrated to provide more vitamin D (four times the amount), beta carotene (seven times), vitamin E (three times) and vitamin A (66 percent more). They may also contain 33 percent less cholesterol and 25 percent less saturated fat. According to Brooks, pasture-raised eggs taste better as well. “We get so many emails from customers where they say, ‘Thank you. This is the best egg I’ve ever tasted,’” he said.

In addition to pasture-raised and free-range eggs, there are also cage-free eggs, in which hens typically live indoors in a floor-based housing or aviary system, rather than in the small, two- to-three-bird cages typical of the commodity egg industry.

SpecialtyEggs2-MWStill, even within the three main categories of specialty eggs, there can be even further demarcations, such as organic and Non-GMO Project Verified eggs, as well as nutritionally fortified eggs. Through the use of specialized feed, nutritionally fortified eggs contain higher levels of one or more nutrients, such as omega fatty acids, protein, beta carotene, vitamin D, vitamin E, folate and various antioxidants. USDA organic, the only regulated category in the specialty egg industry, pertains mostly to the feed that is used to grow hens. The label means the producer uses feed that is non-GMO and has been grown or produced without the use of pesticides. Free-range and pasture-raised eggs can be certified as organic. Cage-free eggs cannot be certified in this way.

Whether it is because of the more humane treatment of hens, enhanced nutritional benefits or better flavor, consumers have spoken, boosting the specialty egg industry to roughly 10 percent of the larger $9.4 billion U.S. table egg market. This is double what the specialty egg market was just five years ago. There has been a particularly sharp increase over the last 18 months. This jump is partly due to an increase in the price of commodity eggs (attributed to higher grain prices). Now that consumers are absorbing less of a hit when they move up to specialty eggs, there appears to be a changing consumer mindset.

“Food isn’t just something that people are using for nutrition nowadays,” said Jasen Urena, Director of Specialty Eggs at NestFresh, a national specialty egg producer and distributor based in Fullerton, California. “It has actually become part of their value system. The animal welfare aspect of specialty eggs and the environmental sustainability aspect with organic and non-GMO – these are becoming hot topics to consumers. And this has caused amazing growth over the last 18 months.” According to Urena, some mass retailers on both coasts are seeing specialty eggs account for a whopping 30-35 percent of sales, up from 6-7 percent just five years ago.

NestFresh produces and distributes cage-free, free-range, pasture-raised, non-GMO and organic eggs, including nutritionally enhanced varieties, through its brands NestFresh, The Country Hen, Horizon Organic and a variety of retailer private labels. The company forgoes the use of hormones or antibiotics, as is typical of commodity egg producers. Its products are all certified as humane by several third-party verifiers.

Consumers are not the only ones driving the specialty egg trend, however, with state regulators getting into the game as well. Beginning in January, California will outlaw the use of conventional cages, although legal wrangling continues over whether the statute as written also bans larger, so-called “enriched” cages that hold 15-20 birds. Other states are considering similar laws.

While both consumer awareness and specialty egg sales are increasing, there appears to be much room for growth. At least 90 percent of domestic table eggs come from caged hens that average just 8.5 inches by 8.5 inches of living space. “Our research indicates that most consumers are simply not aware of this, and those that are do not support it,” said Jenni Danby, Marketing Director at The Happy Egg Co., a national specialty egg supplier based in San Francisco. “Consumer education is such a large part of what we do. For a bird with a 30-inch wingspan to have a space that is smaller than a piece of standard printer paper – we think consumers are entitled to know this.”

The Happy Egg Co. supplies free-range eggs from hens that do not receive antiobitics or hormones and are free to roam in grassy fields every day with at least 14 square feet of space per bird. This space allotment handily exceeds all current third-party free-range standards. The two-and-a-half-year-old company supplies over 4,000 retailers, and its products are all certified as humane by several third-party verifiers.

Some producers are finding that humane treatment of hens pays a production dividend. John Brunnquell, President of Warsaw, Indiana-based Egg Innovations has seen the benefits of moving from a commodity, caged production model to various levels of specialty production. After taking over his family’s egg farm following college, Brunnquell decided to transition to specialty eggs. “Every time we took another step forward in animal welfare, whether it was adding perches, letting the birds outside [or] expanding the outside area – every time we did this, our production went up,” he said.

Not only did Egg Innovations’ egg output increase, so did the quality. “We’ve seen deeper, darker yolks and improved shell strength, and we attribute this to a healthier bird” Brunnquell said. “Now on flavor, that’s obviously a subjective discussion, but it’s typical for consumers to come back to us and say, ‘These eggs taste different. They taste better.’” Egg Innovations is a national supplier of free-range and organic free-range eggs, including several types of nutritionally enhanced eggs. The company, which is preparing to launch a third-party certified pasture-raised egg, does not use hormones or antibiotics, and its products are certified as humane by several third-party verifiers.

This story was originally published in the December 2014 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

 

Artisan Bistro Announces New Premium Frozen Burrito Line

Artisan Bistro, creator of modern organic frozen entrées, bowls and bakes, today announced its new line of artisan burritos, featuring a savory blend of high-quality sustainable  proteins, organic vegetables, grains and spices all wrapped in one-of-a-kind organic gluten-free tortillas.  Using sustainably-caught wild Alaskan salmon, antibiotic-free beef, free-range chicken and meatless ‘pork carnitas,’ the new burritos offer consumers a healthy and delicious lunch, dinner or snack.

“Many people are busy and barely finding time to eat on-the-run, so hand-held meal options have become wildly popular,” said Leo Griffin, Chief Executive Officer of Artisan Bistro Foods, Inc.  “To create our burritos, we took one of the nation’s favorite convenience foods and gave it our signature artisan upgrade with bold spices, clean proteins and organic whole grains and vegetables that consumers can feel good about eating and feeding their families.”

All Artisan Bistro Burritos are gluten free, contain at least 75 percent organic ingredients and have between 11- 14 grams of protein. The big, artisan-crafted 7-ounce burritos will be available in natural food stores and grocers nationwide in January, and have a suggested retail price of $3.79. Varieties include:

  • Beef, Jack Cheese & Ancho Chili – A classic Oaxacan-inspired mix made with organic brown rice, robust ancho chilis, red bell peppers, onions and antibiotic-free beef.
  • Chicken Tinga & Chipotle – A traditional Mexican-inspired wrap made with organic brown rice, onions, cilantro, smoky chipotle and all-natural chicken.
  • Wild Alaskan Salmon & Poblano – A uniquely delicious blend made with poblano peppers and wild Alaskan salmon, combined with organic brown rice, spinach and parsley.
  • Meatless Carnitas & Salsa Verde – A savory and flavorful combination made with meatless carnitas, tomatillos and onions.

 Artisan Bistro’s entire cast of nutritionally-rich frozen meals are made with delicious, non-GMO ingredients, like sustainably-caught wild Alaskan salmon, free-range chicken, premium organic vegetables and a variety of organic whole grains and legumes, including quinoa, lentils and garbanzo beans.  All dishes contain 70 percent or more organic ingredients and are gluten free to deliver wholesome, fresh and unique options for anyone seeking great-tasting alternatives to cooking or eating out. Artisan Bistro meals are available in natural food stores and grocers nationwide, including Whole Foods, Target, Safeway, Publix, Wegmans and Sprouts.  For more information, visit www.theartisanbistro.com.

Coco Polo Chocolate Now in Your Dekalb Farmers Market

 

Coco Polo is now offered for sale in Your Dekalb Farmers Market in Decatur, Georgia. Your Dekalb Farmers Market is a pioneer in fresh food distribution; receiving direct shipments of unique products from around the globe, without costly warehousing and distribution delays. The result is a collection of the highest quality, lowest cost, and largest variety of fresh and organic food products currently available.

“If you have not heard of them, they have quite a story of their growth….this family business was literally built by the hands of the community. Up to 100,000 customers per week have supported the store for over 40 years. It’s an honor to be included in their family of products,” says Diane Yamate, Co-Founder of Coco Polo. “They do all the things that we would like to see done in the natural community: simplicity, responsibility, and a commitment to health.”

Coco PoloCoco Polo offers a unique and healthy addition to the chocolate shelf. Unlike standard chocolates in dark colored packages, Coco Polo features bright, exciting packaging contrasted with gold that catches the eye while scanning the store aisle. These rich chocolate bars come in both Milk and Dark flavors with 13 rich varieties. Coco Polo’s seven dark chocolate bars are all vegan and include: 70% Dark, Elderberry, Cherry, Cocoa Nibs, Almond, Ginger, and Toasted Coconut Chia. Coco Polo also offers milk chocolate in the following varieties: 39% Milk, Almond, Cherry, Elderberry, Hazelnut, and Mango.

Already in Whole Foods Market, Mom’s Organic Market, Sprouts Farmer’s Market, and The Fresh Markets, Coco Polo aims to offer the most delicious, sugar-free, real chocolate available in traditional and brand new flavors.

 

Authentic Dijon Mustard Flavored With Napa Valley Wine

mustardEdmond Fallot is adding a new mustard to its condiments line with its Napa Valley Pinot Noir Dijon Mustard. Grape must, mustard seeds mainly from Burgundy’s Terroir and Napa Pinot Noir are finely blended into a vividly-hued crimson purple paste. The flavor is delicate and will exquisitely enhance red meat, game, fish, sandwiches, pasta and sauces.

Wine and mustard are historically entwined: back in the day, the Romans consumed a fiery mixture comprised of wild mustard seeds and grape must – this famous “mustum ardere” (mustum, fermenting grape juice and ardere, to burn, blazing, from which the word mustard is derived).

Although Pinot Noir has been known for a very long time in Burgundy (apparently brought to France by the Romans), its history subsequently became mixed up with that of monasteries, which played a key role in the reputation of Burgundy vineyards. Well vinified, it produces wines characterized by great subtlety and a wide range of aromas (fruit, wood undergrowth).

Emmi Roth USA Honored with Six Medals at 2014 World Cheese Awards

Emmi Roth USA took home six medals at this year’s World Cheese Awards in the United Kingdom, a record for the company at this competition. These wins bring the total number of awards for the company’s U.S.-produced cheeses to 23 in 2014.

The company’s flagship cheese, Roth® Grand Cru® Surchoix, received a “Super Gold” award, earning the title of one of the 62 Best Cheeses in the World. This best-in-class distinction is the bookend in a banner year for Grand Cru — the line of Grand Cru cheeses has taken home a total of 10 awards in 2014.

It’s a journey that began 4,000 miles away, among the rolling hills of Wisconsin. There, the flavors of this perfect land, climate and fresh milk go into each wheel of Roth Grand Cru. This Alpine-style cheese is crafted in traditional copper vats and carefully cured by Roth cellar masters to reflect the distinct terroir of America’s Dairyland. Grand Cru Surchoix, hand-selected as “the best of the best,” cures for a minimum of nine months to create a firm texture and complex flavors of caramel, fruit and mushroom.

“This is truly our life’s passion,” said Linda Duwve, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Emmi Roth USA. “The quality of the milk, the cheesemaking traditions, the dedication and expertise of our cheesemakers and cellar masters—you can taste all of that in each wheel. We don’t do all of this for the awards, but it’s humbling and an honor to have our flagship variety recognized among the top cheeses in the world.”

In addition, team Emmi Roth USA received the following honors at this year’s World Cheese Awards:

The Gold award for Grand Cru Reserve was also an extremely prestigious win for Emmi Roth. Grand Cru Reserve was competing in class 5514 against cheeses that had previously been awarded Supreme Champion, or the equivalent, in a national or international cheese awards competition in any country. Grand Cru Reserve earned the right to compete in this elite category after being named Grand Champion at the 2014 World Dairy Expo.

Emmi Roth’s parent company, Emmi of Switzerland, took home 11 medals, including three Gold awards for Piz Bever Extra, Kaltbach™ Cave-aged Le Gruyère AOP and Kaltbach Cave-aged Emmentaler AOP. Kaltbach Cave-aged Le Gruyère AOP was also named Best Le Gruyère AOP cheese in the sponsored trophy awards.

Hosted by the U.K.’s Guild of Fine Food, the World Cheese Awards is the world’s largest cheese event and the most respected competition of its type. This year, more than 250 judges scored nearly 2,600 cheeses from 33 countries.

Read more here and here about Emmi Roth USA and its 2014 cheese contest results.

Paso Robles Wine Country to Celebrate Inaugural BlendFest on the Coast

The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance (PRWCA), in conjunction with the Cambria Tourism Board, San Simeon Tourism Board and Wine Coast Country announced a new partnership to bring a Paso Robles wine event to the north coast of San Luis Obispo County. On February 21, 2015 the 1st Annual Paso BlendFest on the Coast will showcase the best characteristics of each partner, combining the scenic beauty of the coast with Paso Robles Wine Country, only miles away. Held during off season, BlendFest is sure to become an annual marquee event helping to promote stays at the area’s lodging properties and celebrate Paso Robles Wine Country in a beautiful setting.

BlendFest will invite visitors to San Simeon and Cambria to Grow Wild beyond a glass of everyday wine and will feature 25-30 of Paso Robles’ renowned wineries, each featuring two distinct blends! Held at The Cavalier Resort in San Simeon, guests will be able to enjoy spectacular wines, only surpassed by the stunning coastal views.

“As evidenced by Paso’s recent honor as Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine, the region has become known for rule breaking, unconventional blends,” said Jennifer Porter, Executive Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “It is now time those blends got their own dedicated festival!”

Read the rest of this story at Food & Food Equipment News, another publication of Oser Communications Group. You might also be interested in this story about Mollydooker wines.

Evolving U.S. Caviar Market Stocked with International and Domestic Products

 

By David Bernard

SONY DSCTime was, when you wanted to experience top-quality caviar, there was one game in town (or rather one sea in town): the Caspian Sea. The Soviet Union and Iran, with Caspian shoreline, had sole access to the species of sturgeon that provided the worlds most delicious caviar, which retailed for hundreds of dollars per ounce. However, today, retailers wanting to procure some of the best Russian caviar available, may take their shopping trip far and wide – to China and Uruguay, for example.

With exports of wild caviar from the Caspian Sea and other locations banned or mostly banned since 2006 due to poaching, overfishing, pollution and shrinking habitat, American caviar importers have turned to a growing global aquafarm industry. This is yielding some delicious results.

The key to sourcing the best caviar is to keep your eye not so much on the fish, but on the farm. While most aquafarms started their operations with the prized Caspian Sturgeon, Russian Osetra or Siberian Sturgeon (chosen for its rapid rate of maturation), it is the individual farms processes and practices that determine whether the fish turn out world-class Russian caviar or an also-ran product. While feed is not typically a distinguishing factor in product quality – there are only a few large-scale feed producers worldwide – aspects such as how much and what kind of vitamins are given and the strength of a countrys regulatory practices play important roles in ultimately determining caviar quality.

My job is to go to visit every single farm to see if they have close to a natural situation, said Max Moghaddam, President and owner of Bemka House of Caviar & Fine Foods, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based importer and distributor. The quality of the water is most important. If a farm is landlocked and water is a limited resource – maybe theyre using only 10 percent fresh water and recycling the rest – thats not really a farm we want to work with.

In addition to China and Uruguay, countries producing farmed caviar include Italy, the world leader in the production and export of such caviar, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Israel, Canada, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, as well as Iran and a number of former Soviet Republics. Russia produces a significant amount of caviar, but most is consumed by the country’s large domestic market.

Today, the main varieties of caviar imported into the United States continue to be Russian Osetra and Siberian Sturgeon. Some hybrids are sold as well, for example Bester, which is a hybrid of the Caspian native Beluga and the smaller Sterlet Sturgeon. Beluga caviar itself is banned from import or sale in this country, because the Beluga Sturgeon is an endangered species.

Markys, based in Miami, sources its top-selling Osetra from an Israeli aquafarm that uses a continuous flow of mountain stream water. The Karat Osetra caviar is sold in Black, Amber and Gold varieties. The Amber is a particular hit, juicy but with a firm grain and distinctive nutty clean taste.

While foreign aquafarms are turning out quality caviar, domestic production has grown as well, thanks to both lower pricing and increased demand. With the overall dip in world production that occurred between the banning of much wild caviar and the growth of the farmed caviar industry, domestic producers were able to fill part of the supply void.The caviar from California White Sturgeon, similar to Russian Osetra in size and taste, if a bit more fishy, now makes up more than 70 percent of authentic domestic caviar production and provides consumers with a gourmet product at a somewhat lower price.

We find that White Sturgeon is a very good middle ground, said Christopher Hlubb, President and COO of Markys. It does not usually compete with products at the top such as Russian Osetra. Like most products, it depends on grade, but it positions itself as a very good product, although the price has risen and is nearing that of Russian Osetra.

For retailers looking to offer consumers fish roe at an even lower price, there are a number of non-sturgeon American caviar products available (note: this term is also often used to refer to the authentic caviar from California White Sturgeon). Paddlefish roe, the cousin of caviar, comes from fish native to the Yellowstone River and Mississippi River system. Salmon and whitefish roe are also lower price-point options.

We talk to customers and ask them what their need is, said Dale Sherrow, Vice President of Seattle Caviar Company, which sells American caviar as well as a full range of imported caviar. If its an event, what kind of event, how many people, whats their budget. And for some customers, salmon roe is the perfect choice. You get that strong salmon flavor. It has a larger bead. Its just delicious.

While there are a number of tasty non-sturgeon roe products available, these are not necessarily a steppingstone for consumers to move into imported caviar. We find a lot of customers have their preference, their budget, and they stay with it,” said Sherrow. “They get great tasting American caviar that can be used most ways.”

This story was originally published in the November 2014 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.

 

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