From truffles to caviar, fancy foods tempt U.S. consumers

Tue Jun 29, 2010 7:02pm EDT
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By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - There's food to feed friends, and then there's food to impress them.

From vintage sardines to tiny pearls of hand-rolled tea, fancy food finds plenty of hungry, high-end consumers ready to pay, say manufacturers, importers and distributors at the Fancy Food Show in New York this week, where some 180,000 specialty foods were on display.

At Paramount Caviar, president Hossein Aimani said caviar sales are on the upswing. As the U.S. economy stumbled in recent years, consumers went for domestic hackleback and paddlefish at roughly $20 an ounce retail, he said.

This year, "they're buying more expensive caviar, more elegant caviar," Aimani said. "We're seeing improvement, about 10 or 15 percent higher sales over last year."

Top of the line at New York-based Paramount is Israeli caviar, at almost $100 an ounce retail.

Newly available in the United States as of this past month are tins of vintage French sardines by Mouettes d'Arvor, which can last 10 years if kept in a cool, dark cellar and turned over every six months, said French exporter Olivier Blanchard.

"It's like wine," he said.

As the sardines age, the bones of the fish disintegrate so it can be eaten whole, added Francoise Crook of Worcester, Massachusetts-based Crossings which distributes the sardines.   Continued...