Laura King has run a caviar business for almost 20 years – even supplying the iconic food to Britain’s royal family.
But when she started in the food industry, she wasn’t a fan of caviar, which is the name for sturgeon’s roe or roe.
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Now, she is known as the “caviar queen” and her company King’s Fine Food imports hundreds of kilos of caviar into the UK every two to three weeks.
The company sells delicacies to Michelin-starred chefs, high-end stores such as Harrods and Selfridges, and airlines including Cathay Pacific and Emirates.
“I remember thinking…’God, I hope he doesn’t want something expensive to eat,'” she said, recalling concerns about the company’s tight hospitality budget.
Before starting her own firm in 2004, King tried unsuccessfully to buy caviar supplier WG White, where she was sales director.
King received a £170,000 ($206,500) loan, adding to his family’s mortgage to set up offices as well as packing facilities and refrigerators – to store caviar at minus 2 degrees Celsius and minus 4 degrees Celsius. Should be kept between celsius. . And of course, stock is expensive, starting at around £300 a kilo, King said.
She said of her now late husband John King, a chef who spent time in the kitchens of top London restaurants such as The Dorchester and Le Caprice.
Now, King oversees a team of 10 people, including his daughter Holly – the company’s sales director – and earns more than £2.5 million to £3 million a year. About 80% of these sales are caviar, with the remainder consisting of black and white truffles, Italian Amadei chocolates and luxury food hampers.
How to eat caviar
For those new to caviar, King suggests spreading some crème fraîche on a warm blini and topping with half a teaspoon of caviar, or adding a small amount of caviar to a soft-boiled egg for breakfast. You can also try it on French bread, “something that’s soft and subtle,” King said.
If you’re serving caviar to help people, serve it “in a crystal or glass bowl over ice,” King said in a company blog post, and use a mother-of-pearl spoon. “It is a sin to serve caviar in a silver dish,” said King, because the metal adversely affects the taste of the dish.
One way to serve this dish is absolutely forbidden: mixing it with chopped eggs, chives and lemon juice “would take away the flavor of very poor quality caviar,”
Why is caviar so expensive?
According to the company’s blog post, caviar has long been regarded as a delicacy and was first consumed by Persians in the 16th century for its healing properties, while Russian aristocrats began consuming it in the 18th century.
Caviar is the world’s most expensive food – a 1kg tin of beluga sells for around £5,000 on King’s website – because caviar can only come from sturgeon, which take eight to 18 years to lay eggs large enough to harvest. According to the company, the beluga species takes 12 years to produce eggs, which are brown in color.
King’s most popular product is Ocitra Caviar, which retails for between £33.40 for 20g and £1,669 for 50g. According to the company’s website, it takes about eight years for Ocitra sturgeon to produce eggs with a “sweet, mild flavor.”
“Sevaruga, Osciatra, Beluga are historically from Iran and Russia, those were the three caviars that everybody recognized… So I think [Osiatra] sits in the middle, it fits very well,” King told CNBC. It is sourced from here, and it tastes amazing.” ,
King sources most of its caviar from Belgium and China, and since new environmental protection regulations were introduced in 2006, it is all from farmed sturgeon rather than wild.
Tips for startups
King has two tips for startups: know your product and do the math. You have to assure your suppliers that you will be able to pay for the stock, King said. His company now deals exclusively with agricultural suppliers.
Expect to be involved in details and work hard. Nearly two decades after starting her business, King still packs products, delivers and takes empty pallets to recycling centers herself, she said.
“And keep the cash with you,” he said. “I put money into the business. We have plenty of reserves, so if something happens tomorrow, I can continue for about three years,” King said.
The Kings have also spent time building their reputation, and have faced two bouts of negative publicity.
The company inadvertently bought a batch of caviar labeled Severuga when it was actually an inferior breed, making headlines focusing on the fact that it was Fortnum & Mason, the grocer’s supplier to the late Queen Elizabeth II. To avoid such accidents, Kings now runs a DNA testing program.
The company faced a similar problem in 2021, when King’s sold a mislabeled batch of caviar to London restaurant Scotts. But it was a printing error, and King sued the newspaper that reported it, explaining that “the mislabeling was simply a printing error and an intentional attempt to pass off an inferior product as a superior product.” There was no attempt.”
“We have to protect our name,” King told CNBC. King plans to hand the reins to daughter Holly in the next two to three years, spending more time on the King family charity, the John King Brain Tumor Foundation, which she founded after her husband died of a brain tumor.
“We are two women in the business, probably the only two women in the caviar business worldwide. We have worked hard and we have tried to do a good job,” he said.
King’s Fine Foods received its Royal Warrant in 2021, meaning it can use the Royal Arms, a coat of arms that identifies it as a supplier to the royal family, on its products and website.
King Charles III has succeeded Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family hopes to maintain that impression now that they expect to review warrant holders early next year.
“We have a royal warrant for the Queen. We supply the king, so I hope, touch wood, we will keep it,” she said.