Academic journal article Agricultural Economics Review

The Role of PDO/PGI Labelling in Italian Consumers' Food Choices

Academic journal article Agricultural Economics Review

The Role of PDO/PGI Labelling in Italian Consumers' Food Choices

Article excerpt

Abstract

The ability of Italian consumers to recognize and distinguish food products protected by the European Union denomination of origin trademarks PDO and PGI through the information provided on the label was explored with 400 face-to-face interviews of consumers, responsible for household food purchasing. Cluster analysis showed that the PDO and PGI logos are commonly the main purchasing motivation for shoppers with an excellent knowledge of the EU certification labels, while consumers with no knowledge of the European origin trademarks tend to base their decision to buy on the product's lower price, better appearance and Italian origin.

Key words: PDO; PGI; Labels; Italian consumers; Cluster analysis; Segmentation

Introduction

There appears to be widespread confidence that the promotion of products with a strong geographical connotation has now become a strategic factor for the development of the European agro-food system. This has led to a marked increase in the number of food products with denomination of origin (PDO) and geographical indication (PGI) trademarks (Council Regulation (EC) No. 510/2006).

Many of these products, especially those more recently launched that cannot rely on an already established presence in the markets, are struggling to perform well. Among the reasons cited for this limited market success are difficulties due to the low visibility of the European system of quality assurance. Product differentiation is necessary but not sufficient; there is also a need to activate a communication process that allows the consumer to perceive the actual value difference of PDOs and PGIs.

Geographic indications and certifications are often subject to misunderstandings, misinterpretations and generalizations (Grunert, 2005; Verbeke, 2005). Numerous studies have shown that these trademarks do not always work as indicators of quality (Belletti et al., 2006; Desquilbet et al., 2006): consumers may be unaware of the information on the label, they may not know the region/area of origin or they may fail to interpret what they mean. Furthermore, many other brands and trademarks, owned by private companies or modern distribution chains, with a broad range of geographical links confuse consumers and crowd out the food market. This situation is due to many different factors, the most obvious being: poor recognisability of PDO and PGI graphic logos; confused, fragmented and sporadic information; and also the emergence of numerous other brands and logos that promote local origin of food products.

Given the above scenario, the present study analyzes the ability of consumers to recognize and distinguish the products protected by the European Union (EU) PDO and PGI trademarks through the information provided on the label. To this intent, a direct survey was conducted on a sample of 400 Italian consumers to observe the factors that influence the perception and the purchasing attitude towards such products and the role of logos on the label in influencing their choices. In particular, to investigate this last aspect, a test was conducted on consumers by comparing the same food products (Asiago cheese and Mortadella Bologna cured meat) with and without the EU PDO/PGI label. The test was supplemented by a questionnaire that investigated the perception of the concept of typical products, the propensity to purchase and consume these products and the confidence placed in the different certification systems.

The study is structured as follows: first, recent literature on consumers' attitudes towards typical foods is reviewed; next, the most prominent research on typical food labelling is considered; then, drawing from the direct survey, results are presented and discussed. The paper concludes with some practical guidance that could assist policymakers and marketers to build more informed decisions on Italian consumer knowledge, concern and response to geographical indications for agricultural and food products. …

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