The French produce 80 percent of Europe's oyster crop and eat almost one hundred thousand tons of the delicacy a year, but the country's love affair with this bivalve mollusk is being tested by a recent scientific development. By crossing a natural oyster with a laboratory-produced variety, scientists have created a sterile version known as a tetraploid. As a result, the new oyster does not reproduce which allows it to have the same taste and aspect all year round so defying the old adage that one should eat oysters only during the months that have an r in their names.
This break with tradition raises a host of questions concerning how consumers will react to such a development. Those who are against the new, year-round mollusk feel that it sacrifices the noble oyster on the altar of convenience foods while those in favour believe the development could breathe new life into a market that risks stagnating.
With this in mind, a research team from Audencia Nantes, one of France's top business schools, set out to gauge French oyster eaters' reaction to the tetraploid. Using an approach involving psychology, marketing, sociology, and anthropology, the researchers carried out in-depth individual interviews and group meetings based on tasting sessions which give an insight into what makes the oyster consumer tick.