The governmental Administration of the autonomous Spanish region of Galicia – one of 17 in Spain that include Catalonia and the Basque country – said it had a duty to bring in measures that conserve its food tradition and protect it against standardisation and globalisation.
“Galicia boasts a long tradition of artisan food products, which are part of its popular culture and enjoy high esteem amongst consumers, including outside Spain. Production of these products has contributed not only to further enrichment of Galician culture, but also to creation of an economic base for many rural and coastal families,” the draft law reads.
“Regulation of artisan food is intended to recognise and promote the economic, cultural and social values they offer for Galicia, safeguard
and preserve artisan food enterprises that produce food products by traditional means, and to incentivise the founding of new enterprises of this kind.”
Under the draft law, only companies and producers that meet the criteria can use the terms ‘artesana’ and ‘artesano’ (artisan), ‘artesanal’ (artisanal), ‘artesano de la casa’ and ‘artesano casero’ (homemade artisan) and ‘artesano de montaña’ (artisan mountain) for labelling, presenting and marketing.
The regional government, which has notified the European Commission of the draft law, also developed a logo for eligible manufacturers to use.
The law covers a wide range of food categories, including cheese and meat products, alcohol, fruit and vegetable-based products, bakery, pastry, pasta, confectionery and chocolate, condiments, olive oil and heliciculture (snail farming).
Flavour enhancers, artificial colours or flavours, artificially hydrogenated fats and tropical fats such as palm and coconut oil are banned
In general, artificial additives or processing aids cannot be used unless they are “technically indispensable for production” and are used in the quantities specified in the product’s corresponding Technical Regulation, it says.
Helping non-PDO producers
Daniel Lojo, research analyst at Euromonitor International said the label will build on the existing Galicia Calidade label – quite well known already at a national level – which certifies that a product originates from Galicia.
“It seems that a secondary goal is to help some producers of cheese, processed meat and other traditional products that have not achieved yet a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and therefore cannot enjoy the benefits of it,” he added.
What are other countries doing?
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) defines the terms ‘artisan’, ‘farmhouse’, ‘traditional’ and ‘natural’ and has cracked down on manufacturers that misuse the terms in the past.
In 2016, the UK's advertising watchdog ruled that a B2B advert for a bread mix, which promised “an easy way to make sour dough and artisan breads” was not misleading because it targetted manufacturers who know the end product will be ‘artisan-style’.
'An unnecessary burden'...
Production processes must be manual although “a certain degree of mechanisation in partial operations” is allowed “for reasons of food safety, improvement of quality or improvement of working conditions”.
The law also allows for one company to have part of its manufacturing capabilities as artisan and others industrial as long as the product labels “clearly distinguish” the difference.
According to Sebastián Romero Melchor, partner en Food Compliance International, the law could be difficult to enforce and even pose unnecessary burdens to small producers.
"Although the initiative aims to protect and foster local artisan food production, the technical criteria and the obligation to obtain a license or register can be considered unnecessary burdens for small scale producers in Galicia. The decree exhaustively lists the artisan food activities and even production limits may be established for artisan food companies.
"In practice it will prove difficult to enforce the requirements as it lack a strong legal basis," he added. "For certain conditions a wide exception margin is provided. For instance, mechanical production methods -instead of manual production only- are permitted for reasons of food safety, quality improvement or improvement of labour conditions. It can be doubted whether the Galician local agency will genuinely question the production methods applied by local producers which at the same time it aims to protect."
Or a boost to provenance and premiumisation?
Lojo predicted benefits for both consumers and companies. “Spanish consumers in general and Galician in particular show a high consideration to Galician cuisine and food, which are perceived to be among the best of the country.
"By adding this label to the competitive landscape, consumers will be more informed and able to buy the right products they look for. The value this label will add to the products might also help producers to position their portfolios as more premium and to generate higher income for their business.
“Provenance is a really good selling point which attracts consumers’ attention across the board and more similar regional labels are likely to follow the already existing ones to even the competitive differences that they may produce.”
Artisan Foods Register
The decree establishes an Artisan Foods Register, which falls under the Ministry of Rural Affairs, via the Galician Food Quality Agency [Agacal].
Agacal will be responsible for certifying companies and monitoring compliance. The decree has also established the Galician Artisan Food Council as an artisan food advisory, evaluation and participation body.