How caviar became TikTok's favorite snack
Caviar and Doritos — the ultimate "juxtaposition of highbrow and lowbrow" — make for a wildly popular TikTok treat.
Many videos that go viral on TikTok are elaborately edited, impossibly glamorous or capture an incredible moment.
Not so for Danielle Matzon (née Zaslavsky; @dzaslavsky on TikTok), an influencer who is helping to drive a growing trend of caviar content by pairing the stereotypically "fancy" food with a refreshing lack of pretentiousness. Leaning over her kitchen counter as she spoons caviar directly onto Doritos, Matzon is showing the masses that it can be a casual snack. These posts get millions and millions of views.
Caviar traditionally refers to the eggs (or roe) from a female sturgeon, a migratory fish found all over the world. It has long been synonymous with luxury: Before it was a favorite of influencers, it was popular with Russian czars. As it happens, Matzon herself is caviar royalty. Her grandfather, who emigrated from Ukraine in 1980, is a co-founder of Marky’s, a gourmet food company.
Despite wanting nothing to do with caviar as a child (preferring “regular snacks, like Cheez-Its,” she says), Matzon eventually came around to the family business — and palate. Now she’s in charge of brand partnerships, even if explaining her role to grandpa is a struggle.
“He’s very old school, so he’s still trying to wrap his head around the reach that social media has," she tells TODAY.com. "But I think he’s very happy and proud."
Attempting to make caviar more "accessible"
Matzon has been on TikTok for less than a year and described her ascent to influencer status as a “whirlwind.” But she says she didn’t start her account to promote Marky's: “The intention was always to teach people about things that are maybe not as easily accessible to others as they are to me."
Search for "caviar" on any social media platform and certain stereotypes are bound to come up. As Matzon put it, "What you get is, like, Ferraris, hot girls, watches, yachts, Michelin-star restaurants. For most people that’s not attainable. But when you’re in your kitchen eating a tomato with caviar? People are like, 'Oh, I can see this. This is me.'"
Caviar does have an entry price point, Matzon says. "It’s not thousands of dollars. You can get it for $20 and in the supermarkets there’s caviar that’s like $8 and $10. Obviously the price is always dependent on the fish and the quality, but still, you can get it.”
While there may be a growing number of affordable options, the "flex" factor is still there.
“Wealth is very triggering,” beauty expert Sable Yong tells TODAY.com. Yong has written about the cultural significance of edible indulgences for younger generations beset by economic, environmental and existential worries. “Obviously caviar has the implication of fancy food. And for people who were born post-internet, there’s such pressure to perform your life online. So this is an extension of that in a certain opulent direction," she says. "Especially in social media language, there’s a lot of, ‘Oh, she looks expensive,’ or, ‘This looks rich.’ It’s a language that’s very much oriented towards money. So the resonance of caviar is not surprising.”
The "juxtaposition of highbrow and lowbrow"
One thing that both Matzon and Yong have noticed is that often the most basic videos perform the best. “Sometimes the more lo-fi something looks, the more people engage with it because they’re like, ‘Oh, this is real. This isn’t a fake ad,’” Yong says. “But it’s particularly funny with an expensive product. It’s this weird juxtaposition of highbrow and lowbrow.”
That dissonance also factors into the high-low combos Matzon puts together. While caviar on chips is hardly new, she encourages experimentation. “There’s not one rule that says you should be eating caviar only with blinis or black bread. If you like a certain other pairing, I’m all about that.”
Matzon is conscious of the stereotypes surrounding caviar, not just when it comes to cost, but taste, too. For neophytes who worry they'll find it too fishy or briny, she explains the various flavor profiles available and urges them to do their research so they can find an option they’ll actually like. “Everyone’s palate is different. There are 27 different species of sturgeon that produce black caviar that all have different flavorings. I’m very specific about what I’m eating; I’ll say that maybe this one’s salty, another one’s buttery. Because I want people to understand that it’s not all the same — which I think most people think it is.”
“There are definitely a lot of new customers in the caviar category,” Elliott Myers, Whole Foods' vice president of seafood, tells TODAY.com. He says they’ve seen “pretty significant growth” when it comes to caviar sales year-over-year. And shoppers whose curiosity has been piqued by TikTok are turning to fishmongers for answers, “asking a lot of questions, trying to understand which variety would be best for them.”
Holiday promotions are another way to entice those who might not think it’s in their budget, especially in an economy where shoppers are worried about the price of eggs that come from a chicken, let alone a sturgeon. “We’ve been on a mission for years to make caviar more approachable at all budgets," Myers says. "And so we carry a pretty wide variety of price points, and we just launched three varieties in our own brand that are doing really well.”
"I just want to keep pushing people to experiment with food and be open-minded."
Every savvy seller these days knows that trends translate into money. With her follower count exploding and her caviar videos netting upwards of 8 million views apiece, Matzon is relishing her success on and offline. Who would've predicted the role of a caviar influencer in 2023?
“I’m obviously very humbled by it. And thankful for the community that I’ve built," she says. "I didn’t do it intentionally to help our family business. Sure, it helped a lot. But I always said, you can buy it at other stores. I just want to keep pushing people to experiment with food and be open-minded.”
It's working. The hashtag #daniellemademedoit is its own growing movement now with millions of views, crowds of the influenced popping open their own tiny tins and piling caviar onto Pringles in kitchens across the country.
Source - TODAY