Regional labelling provides reliable and transparent identification
More and more consumers attach importance to supporting agriculture in their region and securing regional jobs when shopping for groceries. In addition, many people want to re-establish a closer connection with the production of their food and make increasing use of seasonal goods with short transport routes. For many citizens, regionality has therefore become an important feature when shopping for groceries.
The BMEL is working to ensure that consumers can identify regional products more easily when shopping. The "Regionalfenster" regional label, initiated by the BMEL in cooperation with commercial operators, offers a clear, reliable and transparent labelling system for regional products: consumers can see at a glance from the packaging whether and to what extent a particular product is “regional”. The blue window guarantees that it is a regional product which deserves this label.
The regional label provides an opportunity for producers from the region to stand out from other initiatives and to provide credible evidence of their product’s added value for customers. The transparency generates the confidence required for regional marketing.
Consumers need to be sure that a producer is justified in advertising the regional origin of the product. Hence, clear criteria for an informative and reliable regional labelling system have been elaborated:
- The region has to be designated unequivocally and verifiably (e.g. rural district, Land or a specification of a radius in kilometres); it may also go beyond state or Land borders (e.g. cereals from the Eifel region or from within 100 kilometres of Aachen).
- The first main ingredient and the value-enhancing ingredients (e.g. strawberries in strawberry yoghurt) must 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, other ingredients must also each originate entirely from the region until at least 51 percent of the overall weight is reached.
- In the case of composite products, the total amount of all regional raw materials will be indicated as a percentage.
- The processing location must be identified on the regional label.
- In addition, information about the provenance of agricultural precursors/input products (e.g. feed, juveniles, seeds) may be indicated on the regional label.
Unlike a great number of unspecific advertisements, the regional label immediately provides consumers with details on which region the raw materials originate from and where they were processed. Evidence must be given that the main ingredient originates from the region specified. A neutral and multistage control and safeguarding system ensures that the information on the region, the ingredients and the processing location are reliable.
Awarding and using the label
The “Regionalfenster” is a voluntary, private label that was initiated by the BMEL. It is supported by the “Regionalfenster e.V.” association and the “Regionalfenster Service GmbH”. The “Regionalfenster e.V.” association represents the entire value-added chain; it includes the food retail sector as well as regional initiatives, the food trade and agriculture.
Since January 2019, the “Regionalfenster Service GmbH” has been in charge of the operational activities. It has taken over this task from the supporting association due to the positive market development of the regional label. The “Regionalfenster Service GmbH” organises the verification of all criteria und issues licences for the regional label to agri-food companies. It is also the owner of the label, which has been registered as a trademark.
Products bearing the regional label have been on the market since early January 2014. 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’s review und safeguarding system. Consumers should and must 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 a research and evaluation project in 2013, consumers and traders were very positive in their assessment of the regional label.
- According to a consumer poll conducted by the Thünen Institute in 2018, a great majority (80%) believe that the regional label is reliable.
- By July 2019, 770,790 contracts with licence holders had been concluded and more than 4200 products had been permitted to use the “Regionalfenster” label – and the figure continues to rise.
For further information on the “Regionalfenster e. V.” association, the “Regionalfenster Service GmbH” and the regional label, please go to www.regionalfenster.de.
Regional origin the most important feature when shopping for groceries
On the occasion of the 2014 Green Week in Berlin, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) published the results of a representative consumer survey carried out by the TNS Emnid research institute. The results indicate that almost six out of ten respondents (57 percent) said it was at least “often” important to them to know where the food they bought originated from – among women the percentage rate was even higher (64 percent). Thus the most important aspect when shopping for groceries is that they originate from the region. Nearly half of the consumers interviewed reported paying attention to individual aspects like animal welfare (44 percent), sustainability (43 percent) and biological cropping methods (41 percent).
A representative survey conducted by forsa, a public opinion polling institute, on eating and consumption habits in Germany, whose results were published by the BMEL in 2018, showed that there is a clear desire among consumers for regional food. According to the survey, more than three quarters of consumers (78%) attach great importance to their food coming from the region.
EU-wide regulations for specific foods
Throughout the EU there are labelling options for food that meets specific quality criteria.
At the end of 2012, the EU introduced the voluntary “mountain product” quality designation. This designation can be used to label products whose raw materials are from mountain regions. For animal products, the feed also originates from the mountain area. In the case of processed products such as cheese, even the processing operation is then located in the mountain area.
At EU level, the EU quality labels for “protected designation of origin”, “protected geographical indication” and “traditional specialities guaranteed” are particularly important.