A Polish company claims it is now possible to enjoy the authentic taste of caviar without damaging stocks of sturgeon.
Warsaw-based Instade Group has launched a product called Tzar Caviar, which is made with mashed fish fillets and spices, and resembles black sturgeon eggs. It claims to taste similar to real caviar, with the added benefit of being richer in vitamins and Omega-3 and 6.
But unlike the real thing, which has seen sturgeon exploited to near-extinction for their eggs, Instade claims its product is sustainably fished in the Atlantic. "By choosing Tzar Caviar you are contributing to the preservation of the beluga population," said export manager Alexandre Barboukov.
"The exact name of the fish is our producer's secret. But its production meets HACCP and EU regulations, and complies with CITES rules on conservation."
The plight of wild sturgeon is so bad that trade in the fish has been banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
The females don't reach sexual maturity until they are 16, but 90% are caught before that. A farmed alternative is available, but Barboukov claimed the roe was collected from fish just three years old, making it unnatural.
"In farmed caviar the roe is real and not a substitute, but the raw material is from a farmed fish in an artificial environment," he said.
"Tzar Caviar is better because it is made from fillets of natural fish, which live in their natural environment. This is a very significant difference."
The product appeared at IFE last month, but has not yet won a UK listing. Both Harrods and Harvey Nichols have backed out after initial interest because the product undercut their premium caviars.
Instade is pitching the caviar in the UK at the equivalent of its price in Polish zloty. The premium variety sells for £10.90 and the imperial for £7.07 - both in a 56.8g glass jar. French caviar fetches £48 for a 50g jar and Iranian beluga upwards of £500.