When will Norway catch up on protected designation schemes?

A new survey shows that consumers in southern Europe have great faith in protected designations, but Norway is falling behind on such schemes.


The results are from a survey carried out as part of the Truefood project, a large research project on traditional food which Nofima Mat is taking part in. TrueFood is short for Traditional United Europe Food, and the main aim of the project is to introduce suitable innovations in traditional food so that producers will increase their competitiveness. The project is divided into eight work packets, and one of them is headed by Nofima Mat. The aim of this work packet is to map consumer perception, expectations and attitudes to traditional food, and discover which innovations work best for producers of traditional food.

An Internet-based consumer survey was recently carried out in six European countries: Belgium, France, Italy, Norway, Poland and Spain. The survey tested awareness of and attitudes to traditional food and included around 5000 consumers.
"As expected, knowledge of traditional food and quality schemes vary vastly from country to country. Awareness is very high in the southern European countries. To questions like 'Have you ever heard of protected designations of origin?', more than 95% in France, Spain and Italy replied in the affirmative. Corresponding affirmative replies from countries in northern Europe were 47% for Belgium, 39% for Poland and 35% for Norway", says Margrethe Hersleth of Nofima Mat.

High figures
"I am pleasantly surprised that as many as 35% knew of the Norwegian designation. According to a survey we have carried out, only 8.7 per cent of the food oriented part of the population reply that they recognise the logos of the Norwegian scheme 'Beskyttede betegnelser' (Protected Designations)," says Tore Jarmund of the Norwegian Agricultural Quality System and Food Branding Foundation. "The 'food oriented part of the population' comprises around 40% of consumers, and these are people who like to try products from local producers. They feel that the products are more attractive when they hear of the products' origin and history, and to conclude - they have an above average interest in food with special qualities," he explains.

Rooted in many European countries
"The reason behind the high figure from the Truefood survey may be that the Truefood survey spoke of traditional foods with the consumers before they were asked about protected designations. The survey from the Norwegian Agricultural Quality System and Food Branding Foundation, however, merely showed consumers the logo without any products. If the logo had been shown on a product, it probably would have been recognised by more people. I would estimate that the true figure for recognition in Norway lies somewhere between the results from the two surveys," says Margrethe Hersleth.

Need more time
"The Norwegian scheme gives protection by law to a product name with a specific geographical origin, tradition and distinction, and was established in 2002 based on similar schemes in the EU. Protected designations is a relatively new system in Norway. The scheme was only established in 2002. So far 15 Norwegian products have received certification as protected designation products based on their origin or traditional distinction. Many countries in Europe have had similar schemes for many decades. In the EU, almost 800 protected designations have been registered," says Tore Jarmund of the Norwegian Agricultural Quality System and Food Branding Foundation.

Positive attitude
Let's return to the European Truefood survey. Consumers who knew of the relevant designations were asked to what degree they felt the brands "signalled food with a better quality" or "a special quality", and how this influenced their choice of foods. The results show that most consumers have a positive attitude to the brands. Around 90% of French, Spanish and Italian consumers say that the PDO-brand signals a better and special quality, whereas the corresponding figure for Norway was 66%. In southern Europe, 80% of consumers replied that this brand influenced their choice of products, while the corresponding figure for Norway was 57%.
Another important discovery from the survey was that Norwegian consumers replied that they wanted to be informed of food with a traditional character through a "quality brand", a "guarantee of origin" or a "certificate".
"This shows that the authorities here in Norway have made the right decision", says Tore Jarmund, who believes we will see more of traditional products with protected designations in Norway in the years to come. However, he underlines that a long-term commitment is necessary for the scope of branded products to reach a certain size.


The Norwegian "Protected designations" scheme
"Beskyttede betegnelser", the Norwegian protected designations scheme, is a public certification system which gives protection by law to product names of raw materials and products of marine and terrestrial origin. The scheme offers the possibility of protecting product names of foods with a specific geographical origin, tradition and/or distinction. The scheme was established by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food based on similar schemes in the EU. The Norwegian scheme is governed by a specific regulation covering all food which falls under the scope of the Food Act, including alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content up to 15%. The scheme is administered by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, which also controls the scheme. It is the task of the Norwegian Agricultural Quality System and Food Branding Foundation to make the scheme better known, to advise applicants, assess applications and make recommendations to the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, who makes the final decisions on certification.
The purpose of the scheme is to develop regional and local production and diversity, as well as to contribute to increased added value in Norwegian food production. One aim is to meet the consumers' and the market's increasing interest in being able to choose quality products based on the production method, cultural and historical origin of the product.
As in other European countries, Norway has three types of protected designations: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG). The first two designations are by far the most used in Europe, while the majority of products in Norway have geographical indications. The survey results show that of the three designations, PDO is the best known.
The scheme shall also be a central initiator in relation to the supervision and further development of Norwegian food production and food traditions both on the home market and for export. The certification system shall emphasise the need to stimulate the development of specialised food products of a high quality, and not least encourage cooperation between the actors of the value chain and between producer cooperations and primary producers.

The Portuguese cheese Castelo Branco has PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status. Photo: Viggo Johansen
Copyright: Teknologisk institutt

The Portuguese cheese Castelo Branco has PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status.


  • Margrethe Hersleth

    Senior Research Scientist, Adjunct Associate Professor, Norwegian University of Life Sciences

    Phone: +47 64970159

    Cellphone: +47 901 89 021

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