Sharing experiences around regional food brands and EU quality labels

Regional food brands and quality labels offer great opportunities for food and drink industry SMEs to enhance the visibility of their products and communicate consumers about the quality and origin of their products. 

There are various types of regional food brands and quality labels available for food products in Europe differing in how and on which level they are managed. On the EU-level the EU Quality Labels such as Protected Designation of Origin or Protected Geographical Indication offer opportunities for food industry SMEs. All these are relatively strictly regulated but offer products distinctive visibility.

Some countries have national food quality labels guaranteeing the origin and the quality of products from that specific country. The national quality labels may also be used for exporting purposes.

Many regions across Europe have also been active to develop their own regional food brands and labels that in many occasions are easier to access and offer also a platform to collaborate with others and share resources and knowledge.

The subject has received a lot of interest among the FRIDGE partners and partners have started to share experiences from their regions with each other. In this article we share some ideas about the quality labels on EU-level and how they are used in FRIDGE regions.

Basics of EU quality labels

European Union protects its gastronomic heritage by highlighting the diversity of products and the quality linked to where they originally come from. There are three different quality labels for typical agricultural products and foodstuff: protected designation of origin (PDO), protected geographical indication (PGI) and traditional specialties guaranteed (TSG) and two types for wine products (PDO and PGI). Spirits and aromatised wines may also be protected by a geographical indication (GI).

These quality schemes give a specific label to the products, which considerably increases their appearance and visibility in the European food market. They are easily recognizable based on the logo and ensure that the name of the product is protected against imitation, fraud and counterfeiting.

On the other hand, receiving the EU quality label for a food or drink product is sometimes a long and resource demanding process, and not all food products are applicable for the quality label. There are also differences between the countries how active the public authorities and food producers have been to apply for the labels. When comparing the FRIDGE partner countries Greece has over 100, Germany 91 and Belgium 20 food products on the list. While Hungary has only 16, Finland 10 and Romania 7 products on the lists.

How the listed labels are applicable to the specific partner regions vary quite a lot from the 32 food PDO/PGI’s in the region of Bavaria to 0 products in the region of South Ostrobothnia.

The EU quality labels in FRIDGE regions

Bavaria, Germany

Of FRIDGE regions the region of Bavaria (Germany) is standing out with 38 food and drink PDO’s and PGI’s applicable in the region. The list covers products from wines, beers and hops to various cheese and meat products. One of the protected beers from Bavaria is Kulmbacher beer (PGI) originating from the town our project partner KErn is located. In addition to the PDO’s and PGI’s 13 drink products have been protected with geographical indication (GI). These include for example the Nürnberger mulled wine and various spirit drinks.

Hofer Rindfleischwurst from the city of Hof (Bavaria) is one of the food specialties protected with PGI.  (Source: Bonisolli/StMELF)

Western Macedonia, Greece

In the region of Western Macedonia the most representative products protected by the EU quality labels are the Greek Saffron with PDO, the Western Macedonian Wine Amyndeon with PDO and Tsipouro, a traditional distilled spirit with GI.

Krokos Kozanis (Greek saffron), the gold of Greek land as it is called, is one of the most precious spices because of its aroma, color and pharmaceutical properties. It is cultivated in Kozani area since 17th century.

The Greek Saffron, Krokos Kozanis, is protected with PDO since 1999.

The region of Western Macedonia is also an important wine-producing zone in Greece and a big variety of wines are produced in the region. The rose sparkling wine Amyndeon (PDO) and the red wines originating from the grape variety ‘Xinomavro΄ are outstanding among the Greek wines. Tsipouro (GI) is an alcoholic distilled spirit having unique flavors and aromas. It comes in two types, pure and anise-flavored. Tsipouro Macedonias has been a GI product since 1989.

East-Flanders, Belgium

In East-Flanders there are 3 products that can boast a PGI label.

  1. Geraardbergse mattentaart - A traditional Flemish bakery product
  2. Gentse azalea - A Flower from Ghent area
  3. O’de Flander graanjenever - The East-Flander Grain Jenever (in the picture)