The world’s your French Oyster!26-12-2018
This iconic food from the French coast is the toast of food connoisseurs the world over, especially in China where flavoured oysters are proving quite a success.
French oysters travel well, especially to Asia
Oysters can be found all along the French coast, from the English Channel to the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic Ocean too. Most French oysters are known as huitres creuses, which are the small, cupped rock oysters, while the much rarer plates, flat Belon oysters, account for only 2% of production. More than 130,000 tonnes of oysters are farmed each year, making France Europe’s leading supplier. A large proportion of production is consumed on the domestic market, of which a massive 50% is concentrated around the festive season. This said, French oysters are finding their way much further afield, and rank among France’s most exported seafood1. French oysters are prized for their fresh taste and delicate saline flavours. As the waters around France are regularly monitored, unlike other oysters, the flavours are wonderfully pure, with no trace of acidity, which is a sure sign of polluted waters. Oysters from Marennes-Oleron on the Atlantic Coast and from Cancale in Brittany are known throughout the world. And if certain aficionados travel especially to France to savour their virtues, there are many others happy to enjoy them closer to home. What they specifically look for is a symbol of luxury and know-how, not forgetting that certain Made in France tradition. It is in Asia that the consumption of French oysters is seeing the most progress, particularly in China, which behind Italy, has become its second largest consumer. And what our Chinese consumers enjoy most is eating them raw à la française, whilst in France they are more likely to be enjoyed lightly grilled in a gratin, in salads or even soup. Asian consumers have a preference for larger, not too saline oysters, unlike the Europeans, who lean towards smaller, saltier versions. Despite these disparities, the heavenly match of oysters with lemon or shallots, accompanied by a glass of steely dry, white wine such as Muscadet, has become all the rage in bars and restaurants all over the world.
The world’s his flavoured oyster
Forget shallot vinegar or lemon, in a world first, a French oyster farmer has come up with the ingenious invention of flavoured oysters. “Customers at the market were always asking for lemon or shallots, and it was a problem when he ran out. So he came up with the idea of adding the flavour directly inside the oyster. And that’s how the concept was born,” explains Patrice Vache, who joined forces with its inventor, Joffrey Dubault, as his exclusive distributor. The brand is called So’ooh by MCC, and promotes flavoured oysters from the Marennes-Oleron region. “Oyster lovers know that these are among the finest”, explains Patrice, who sells the product all over the world. Getting the method just right to create a quality product without altering its unique flavours took some time, but success came very quickly. Importers outside France were intrigued by this world first. “We haven’t had time to take a step back and work out individual country preferences, but what we know for sure is that the product’s originality and French origin, are proving the major draw”, explains Patrice, who is currently in discussions with importers on a global scale and is already exporting Joffrey Dubault’s oysters to Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and to Greece. For the latter, to prove the extensibility of the brand concept, he recently came up with an Ouzo-flavoured oyster.
The oysters are alive, as they are left to soak in water-filled containers fitted with pumps to keep them oxygenated. The taste remains entirely preserved. Other than lemon and shallot, Joffrey Dubault’s oysters come in three unique flavours: ginger, raspberry and muscat grape. Christmas 2018 will see two additional seasonal flavours of truffle and pepper. His innovation recently earned him a prize at the SeaFood exhibition in Brussels last April. And a website is also in the pipeline detailing where consumers can get their hands on these flavoured gems.
Did you know?
Oysters are numbered one to five, with the smaller number confusingly indicating the largest size. So 0 is the largest oyster and weighs in at more than 150g, while the smallest, number 5, weighs in at between 30-45g. For oysters ‘plates’, the zeros accumulate, so 000 is the plumpest on the market.