The paper, published in the journal Food Control, sought to find what influence European Union labelling schemes: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) had on consumer food choice.
The researchers said from a consumer perspective food quality was made up of ‘experience qualities’ like taste and convenience as well as ‘credence qualities’ like origin, production method and healthiness. Since such qualities could remain unknown until they got the products home, consumers often looked out for ‘quality cues’ in store.
“However, EU quality labels can have this function only to the extent that consumers are aware of them, understand them and use them in their decision-making,” wrote the researchers from the Aarhus University in Denmark.
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO): Covers agricultural products and foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how.
Protected Geographical Indication (PGI): Covers agricultural products and foodstuffs closely linked to the geographical area. At least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place in the area.
Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG): Highlights traditional character, either in the composition or means of production
Generally, they found awareness of the EU quality labels was low, although differences between nations were seen. Consumers were more aware of the labels in southern Europe compared to northern counterparts. This could be due to a proliferation of registrations in the south, they said.
As of January this year, a total of 1310 products had the registered right to bear one of the labels. Of these, 608 were PDO, 651 PGI and 53 TSG. These products were heavily skewed towards southern Europe, with the most registrations found in Italy (279), France (226) and Spain (185). Meanwhile only a few registered products were in Denmark (6) and Sweden (7).
Renewed interest in tradition
The researchers said a renewed consumer interest in traditional foods meant many food producers were looking to the schemes as a marketing tool, while authorities were interested in the function of these schemes in consumer decision-making. They were also a means of food control and gave assurances to consumers about a food's origin.
“Many products characterised by their geographical or traditional origin are preferred by consumer segments, indicating that consumers seem to make inferences about origin and traditional ways of production by other, non-regulated forms of branding and market communication.”
The European Commission adopted the schemes to protect products traditionally made in Europe from imitation. It hoped this would help EU producers "build on high quality reputation to sustain competitiveness and profitability".
Source: Food Control
Vol 59, pp 178–187, doi:10.1016/j.foodcont.2015.05.021
“Consumer reactions to the use of EU quality labels on food products: A review of the literature”
Authors: K. G. Grunert and K. Aachmann