But now oysters are being flogged for 25p each by a supermarket which has bought up two thirds of the UK’s stock of the seafood in anticipation of high demand ahead of Valentine’s Day.
Morrisons has snapped up 200,000 oysters, all of them from Scottish farms, in advance of 14 February, when it hopes the 42 per cent of Scots who have never tried an oyster will taste the mollusc for the first time.
The 25p price for a single Pacific oyster, which is cultivated on the West Coast of Scotland and Ireland, is more than six times cheaper than the usual UK market value of Â£1.59 per oyster.
Chefs welcomed the move, but the seafood industry warned that the move could see the image of the exclusive seafood devalued.
David Leiper, chairman of the Scottish Seafood Association, said: “For me, oysters are a treat and a luxury. I worry that selling them like this will force them down in price long term, which is not a good thing for Scottish oyster farmers.
“However, the British public do deserve a chance to taste them and there is usually very little demand in the UK.”
More than half of Scottish oysters are usually sold overseas, with high demand for the product in nations including China and France.
Research carried out by Morrisons found that 58 per cent of Scots have never tasted nature’s famous aphrodisiac, with 29 per cent citing a lack of opportunity to sample the Scottish shellfish as the reason that they have not eaten oysters.
Another three quarters of people are put off because they think they will dislike the taste and another 28 per cent don’t know what to do with them. Meanwhile, 28 per cent fear they will struggle to open the tough shell.
In the early 19th century, oysters were cheap and mainly eaten by the working class, however have become more popular with high-end restaurants in recent years.
Edinburgh-based chef Mark Greenaway, who has appeared on The Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen, said: “If this gets more people eating this wonderful native shellfish, then that’s great. We need to keep more of our amazing shellfish on the Scottish plate rather than export it.”
He added: “Oysters really are delicious and should be tried by everyone - after all they used to be peasant food before we tried to make them all posh.”
Andrew Speight, seafood specialist at Morrisons, which is holding tastings and oyster preparation classes in store, said: “Morrisons is making this exclusive shellfish affordable, offering customers a taste of luxury for the average price of a pack of crisps.
“Half of our British oysters end up being shipped abroad and we thought our customers might like more for themselves.”
Experts will also shuck and prepare individual oysters, upon request from customers.
Farmed oysters are grown in a hatchery, then transferred to a shoreline farm, where they are grown in bags on trestles.
The product is known for its health benefits as a good source of zinc, iron, calcium, and selenium, as well as vitamin A and vitamin B12.