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Caviar sales surge in Britain

Across the U.K., supermarkets have seen unprecedented demand for luxury foods over the festive period, with sales of caviar booming to record highs. Consumers are increasingly looking for "affordable luxury" -- not just when it comes to fashion and tech accessories, but also in their grocery shopping basket.

While shoppers traditionally splash out and treat themselves over Christmas, the stellar sales growth of luxury food products such as caviar – eggs from the Caspian Sea sturgeon -- points to growing trend of "aspirational" food shopping, analysts say.

Filling caviar tins at the factory, Anzali port, Iran.
Kamran Jebreili I Getty Images
Filling caviar tins at the factory, Anzali port, Iran.

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Fortnum and Mason, also known as the Queen's supermarket, announced it had a "landmark" year in 2014, with Christmas sales up 23 percent year-on-year.

The retailer said there was "unprecedented demand for luxury items" with sales of caviar up 42 percent.

High end UK supermarket Waitrose also said sales of caviar were up 27 percent over the festive period, with lobster sales up over 8 percent over the same period . Sales of Oysters were also a major hit, and up 78 percent during December, compared to the same time last year.

But it is not just the luxury retailers that are seeing strong demand for these kind delicacies. Discount German supermarkets Aldi and Lidl have enjoyed double digit growth in the U.K. last year, as shoppers continue to hunt for bargains.

Luxury for all ?

Christmas 2014 was the first year Aldi sold their "Specially Selected Caviar" which retails at £9.99 ($15) per 20g jar as demand for the product has surged. The chain also sells lobster tails for £9.99.

Food & Drug Retailers analyst at Brewin Dolphin Nicla Di Palma said while Christmas time always provides a boost for these kinds of luxury food products, she sees the strong sales trend continuing throughout the year.

"For the likes of Harrods and Fortnum and Mason – their customers are simply getting much richer. Income inequality is increasing and there are actually more and more very wealthy shoppers. On the budget side, when it becomes affordable, its aspirational," Di Palma told CNBC.

Presentation of Caviar with spoon on ice in St Petersburg
Digital Light Source I UIG via Getty Images)
Presentation of Caviar with spoon on ice in St Petersburg

"In Lidl, a lobster is less than £10, it can't be an everyday treat, but it is not £50 which was probably the equivalent price 10 years ago. Shoppers can say 'I can afford caviar' – it's aspirational. And then maybe consumers treat themselves more - when one maybe bought it once a year, now they buy it three or four times a year," she said.

Own-brand quality

This boom in sales of food delicacies also comes as sales of "premium own-brand" groceries – such as Sainsbury's "Taste The Difference" range -- are growing rapidly and now make up 54 percent of UK supermarket food sales according to consumer data firm Nielsen.

In the U.K., the categories with the highest concentration of own-brand sales are fruit & vegetables with almost 100 percent, followed by meat, fish and poultry with 96 percent, the firm said.

"The growth of 'premium' own-brand offerings, which tap into shoppers' increasing unwillingness to compromise over quality, means many own-brands are now a credible alternative for more and more items in today's shopping baskets," said Nielsen's U.K. head of retailer and business insight, Mike Watkins.

"I think in the past there was sense that own-brands supermarket products were not that good. That has changed significantly. There is not so much of a distinction between branded and non-branded items for the likes of lobster and caviar. Consumers don't go to brands like Unilever or Nestle for those sorts of products," Di Palma added.