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.
"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.
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.