At 4,000 to 4,500 euros per kilo, saying Beluga caviar does not come cheap is an understatement. But there is a reason why this sought-after and rare caviar costs so much. It is the result of a risky investment. The huso huso sturgeon needs to be grown for 18 years in perfect conditions for the caviar to be produced.
A Belgian company has been producing Beluga caviar since 2016. Royal Belgian Caviar has been making 100% Belgian caviar since 2002 but it was only in 2016 that it managed to produce Beluga caviar. Belgium’s top chefs from Peter Goossens to Gert De Mangeleer, Roger Van Damme, Bert Meewis, Nick Bril and Tim Boury among others have been using this Belgian ‘black gold’.
Caviar and sustainability are not often mentioned together but the Beluga caviar is made from huso huso sturgeon. Threatened with extinction, this caviar, which is naturally low in calories and has exceptional quality can only be offered on the market only if it comes from aquaculture. This measure allows the world population of sturgeon which is already very small to be saved. As a result, caviar from aquaculture is now more sustainable than caviar that comes from the wild.
The huso huso sturgeon was originally found in the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea and is known as the largest sturgeon breed. Only a few producers offer Beluga caviar in their range and the reason is the long amount of time that is required before the caviar can be produced.
“We have been raising the huso huso for 25 years before we could finally produce the Beluga caviar,” said Cedric Paquet, the commercial manager of Joosen-Luyckx Aqua Bio, the company that owns the brand Royal Belgian Caviar.
“It is a risky investment but we wanted to test the whole cycle. We have various natural lakes across Belgium which we use to breed sturgeon. The reproducing stock can benefit from the seasons and from the necessary rest. Through these reproducing sturgeons, the team is able to reproduce larvae. The company also produces high quality food at its central headquarters in Turnhout. “We know exactly what sturgeons need after studying their needs in detail. Having natural food is essential for their unique quality.”
The Beluga caviar is rare because Huso Huso sturgeon need to be grown for 18 years under perfect circumstances. The quality and the temperature of the water, the oxygen, the food, the space are all crucial elements for the quality of life of the sturgeon and subsequently for the quality of the caviar. This is a long-term investment that is not possible for everyone. Moreover, the risks of such an investment are high because many external factors may come to play. “Anything can happen during those 18 years,” Cedric said.
At 18 years, the Huso Huso sturgeon is 2.5 metres long and weighs between 150 and 200 kilos.
Royal Belgian Caviar produces caviar from different varieties: Beluga, Gold Label, Platinum, Osietra, White Pearl. The product is exported to Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Scandinavian countries, UK, Switzerland, France, Spain and the United States among others.