When thinking of countries producing caviar, China is usually not part of the equation. However, caviar made-in-China is gradually gaining popularity in international markets. It is all thanks to the arduous efforts of Chinese enterprises.
China's largest caviar producer is in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang. In 2019, the caviar output of Hangzhou Thousand Island Lake Sturgeon Technology Co., Ltd., reached 102 tonnes, accounting for over 30 percent worldwide.
"Our products appear in hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets in over 20 countries, such as France, Germany, and the United States," said Xia Yongtao, deputy general manager of the company.
The company was founded in 2003. Back then, the global caviar industry was sluggish as the number of wild sturgeons slumped, and various countries started fishing bans.
"We intended to ride the wave of Western countries' unsatisfied demands. But difficulties came one after another as we lacked the experience to meet sturgeons' high demand in the water temperature and oxygen content, as well as feedings," Xia said.
"Sturgeons are fragile," said Shi Zhenguang, who started sturgeon breeding with his brother in southwest China's Yunnan Province in 2003.
Majoring in freshwater aquaculture, Shi kept doing research and experiments to deal with the mass mortality of sturgeons and enhance their breeding conditions.
Meanwhile, Xia's Sturgeon Technology invited experts from Russia, Iran, Hungary, and Germany to give technical guidance.
Nutritive feedings, advanced processing technology, and cold-chain logistics reinforced the confidence of Chinese caviar producers. However, poor sales disappointed them.
"Good wine still needs bush," said Xia, recalling that Sturgeon Technology also went to many countries for market surveys and sales promotions.
After attaining several top awards at blind-tasting caviar events and exhibitions, the company finally had its breakthrough. It became the supplier of German flag carrier Deutsche Lufthansa AG in 2011.
Shi believed that gold would glitter forever and never stopped improving the product quality. In 2017, caviar produced by his company, Yunnan Amuer Sturgeon Group Co., Ltd., appeared in a three-star Michelin restaurant in Germany, and gradually sales started booming.
At present, over half of all sturgeon farms in the world are in China. Chinese caviar producers are also turning their attention to the domestic market.
Last year, the COVID-19 epidemic weighed on overseas consumer demands, but Sturgeon Technology has witnessed rising sales volumes as it cooperated with leading e-commerce platforms and tried livestreaming sales.
The company will cooperate with the local government to invest in leisure tourism projects to attract more domestic consumers, Xia said.
Shi has also decided to develop caviar products with more added value, such as skincare products and essential oils, to make caviar better known and accepted.
"We want to fulfill both the appetite of Western countries and popularize caviar culture in China," Shi said.