China has become known as a leading exporter of caviar, but one of the country’s largest producers is shifting to pursue domestic sales.
Sichuan Run Zhao Fisheries Co., which also operates by the English name Frosista, is targeting its “Hei Po” brand at the Chinese domestic market, stressing the Siberian sourcing of its sturgeon and the “Iranian craftsmen” overseeing its caviar-creation process. It is now selling 30-gram jars for CNY 299 (USD 42.90, EUR 38.45), and is making a marketing push timed to coincide with Chinese New Year later this month.
Operating out of the Ya’an region of Sichuan Province in southwestern China, Runzhao recently launched the “Baerii Private Collection Caviar” category, which it’s marketing to Chinese consumers. Telesales staff supplementing the company’s online presence on Tmall.com and JD.com advise buyers to pair the caviar with chardonnay.
Caviar has traditionally been an export sector for Chinese companies, who entered the market en masse after the closure of Iranian and Russian wild-based caviar production due to overfishing. Lower wages enabled Chinese players to reduce costs and extract decent margins from caviar, but as with many things in China’s economy, the margins attracted an influx of new players and a glut of supply.
It remains to be seen how popular caviar proves to be in China’s domestic market. Other players include the Amur Caviar Company Ltd., which counts Zoneco (Zhangzidao) as a minority shareholder.
But access to Iranian expertise is convenient for Chinese firms, given China is Iran’s top trading partner and an important source of investments and loans both for energy and infrastructure projects. Chinese consumer goods have poured into Iran’s bazaars in recent years, even as U.S. sanctions have complicated Iran’s financial interactions.
China has likewise sought to integrate its economy with Iran and Russia through infrastructure development under the Belt and Road Initiative. The flow of sturgeon and other seafood between China and Russia will speed up with the opening of the first-ever road bridge across the River Amur. The bridge will connect the cities of Blagoveshchensk in Russia’s Far East region and Heihe in northeastern China.
Photo courtesy of Sichuan Run Zhao Fisheries Co.