Regional labelling provides reliable and transparent identification
More and more consumers regard it as important to support agriculture in their region and secure regional jobs when shopping for groceries. Short transport routes, and thus better climate stewardship, also play a role in the purchasing decision of many customers.
The BMEL is working to ensure that consumers can identify regional products more easily when purchasing. The "Regionalfenster" (regional label) offers a clear, reliable and transparent system for labelling regional products. Consumers should be able to see from a quick glance at the packaging whether and to what extent a particular product is "regional". The blue window reassures consumers that they are buying a regional product that really deserves this label.
The regional label is a chance for the producers from the region to stand out from other initiatives and to provide credible evidence of their products' added value for the customer. The new transparency generates the confidence required for area-related marketing to the benefit of consumers and operators.
The consumer needs to be able to be sure that the producer is justified in using the regional origin to advertise a product. Hence, clear criteria for an informative and reliable system of regional labelling have been elaborated:
- The region has to be designated unequivocally and verifiably (e.g. rural district, federal state or specifics of a radius in kilometres); the region may also go beyond state or federal Land borders (e.g. cereals from the Eifel region or 100 kilometres around Aachen).
- The first main ingredient and the value-enhancing ingredients (e.g. strawberries in strawberry yoghurt) must all originate completely from the region indicated and make up at least 51 percent of the product's overall weight. If the main ingredient accounts for less than 51 percent, the remaining ingredients must also all originate completely from the region.
- In the case of composite products, the total amount of all regional raw materials will be indicated in percentage value (new as an outcome of the test phase).
- The processing location must be identified on the regional label.
- In addition, data on the provenance of agricultural precursors/input products (e.g. feedstuffs, young animals, seeds) may be indicated on the regional label.
Unlike a great number of unspecific advertisements, the regional label immediately provides the consumer with the information on what region the raw materials originate from and where they were processed. Hence, evidence must be given that the main ingredient originates from the region specified. A neutral and multistage inspection and safeguarding system ensures that the data on the region, the ingredients and the processing location are reliable.
Results of the test phase
Roughly 150 foodstuff products carrying the regional label were available in 20 test markets in five test regions throughout Germany between January and April 2013. The test phase was scientifically monitored. A consumer survey revealed that 80 percent of those interviewed evaluated the regional label positively and would welcome seeing this type of labelling implemented. 80 percent of the respondents also considered the label to be easily legible, clearly arranged and informative. Retailers also emphasised that the labelling was concise, simple and transparent. Almost half of the test markets saw an increase in sales of regional products.
Awarding the label
The Regionalfenster is a voluntary private identifying logo. The regional label is promoted by the "Regionalfenster e.V." association. This association owns the identifying logo. Following a verification procedure, the association assigns the regional label and commissions the inspections. Apart from regional initiatives, trades and enterprises, there are also a number of trading chains which participate in the "Regionalfenster e.V." association.
Products bearing the regional label have been on the market since early January 2014. The number of products licensed by the sponsoring association is steadily growing, with some 2400 products now registered. Before a product is allowed to bear the regional label, it must have undergone testing in accordance with the high standards of the regional label. Consumers need to be sure that the information provided by the regional label is correct and that the product actually comes from the region indicated.
The regional label system has proven effective to date:
- In surveys conducted as part of the Research and Evaluation Project in 2013, consumers and traders were very positive in their assessment of the regional label.
- The number of members in the sponsoring association has also been growing steadily in recent months and is tending upwards.
For further information on the "Regionalfenster" association and the declaration box, please go to www.regionalfenster.de.
Regional origin as the most important feature when shopping for groceries
On the occasion of the Green Week 2014 held in Berlin, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) published the results of a representative consumer survey carried out by TNS Emnid research institute. The results indicate that almost six out of ten respondents (57 percent) said it was, at least "frequently", important to them to know where the food they bought originated from - among women the percentage rate was even higher (64 percent). Thus the region is the most important aspect when shopping for groceries. Nearly half of the consumers interviewed reported watching for individual aspects like animal welfare (44 percent), sustainability (43 percent) and biological cropping methods (41 percent).
EU-wide regulations for specific foods
Another sphere of activity is the EU-wide labelling of specific regional food products. The EU introduced its voluntary "mountain product" quality designation at the end of 2012. This can be used to label products whose raw materials originate from a mountain region. In the case of animal products, the feed for the livestock must also come from the region, while processed products must be processed there.
Also significant at the EU level are the EU quality labels for Protected Designation of Origin, Protected Geographical Indication and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed. These marks of quality are awarded via a multi-stage approval procedure at Member State and EU level.
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