Caviar latest treat on Swiss luxury menu

Tue Dec 13, 2011 8:31am EST
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By Caroline Copley

FRUTIGEN, Switzerland (Reuters) - Dressed in a surgeon's white garb, "Caviar Meister" Tobias Felix slits open the slimy, grey skin of the sturgeon on the table in front of him to reveal Switzerland's latest luxury delicacy.

Costing up to 1,275 Swiss francs ($1,400) for 250 grams, "Oona" -- meaning "extraordinary" in Celtic -- is the name of the Alpine country's first Swiss caviar.

The product came about thanks to a brainwave by engineer Peter Hufschmied who decided to use the mountain stream that tumbles out of the North end of the Loetschberg railway tunnel with a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius to breed fish that thrive in warm water.

Some 35,000 Siberian sturgeon were released into the balmy waters six years ago and have produced some 300 kg of caviar for the Winter 2011/2012 season.

Switzerland has the second highest proportion of millionaire households worldwide, at 9.9 percent, according to the Boston Consulting Group and is also one of the world's top consumers of caviar per capita.

The fish farm in Frutigen in the Bernese Oberland plans to grow its shoal to 60,000 sturgeon, making it possible to produce

three tonnes of caviar annually, of which two tonnes will be dedicated for export.

"We've already received enquiries from Russia, Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi," said Andreas Schmid, head of marketing and sales at Oona. "It's partly to do with the fact that Switzerland has a reputation for good quality."   Continued...

<p>"Caviar Meister" Tobias Felix cleans caviar at the caviar laboratories of the Tropenhaus Frutigen in the Bernese Oberland December 9, 2011. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer</p>