3.1. Regional Products, Traditional Product, Local Product—Definitional Issues
Making a distinction between terms regional or traditional and local product is very difficult because they are often used interchangeably. Such situation may lead to mistakes in the analysis of production statistics as well as reasons for customers’ and producers’ behaviors. What is interesting is that after typing the phrase ‘local food’ into Google we get results related to terms such as ‘cuisine’ and ‘dishes’ and not to food products that can be bought from local producers.
Regulation (EU) No. 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and the Council [17
] regulates issues related to foodstuffs labelled with the ‘traditional specialty guaranteed’ trademark. Whereas, the Council Regulation (EC) No. 510/2006 [18
] defines regional products by referring to their origins. ‘Designation of origin’ or ‘geographical indication’ refer to the name of a region, a specific place or, in exceptional cases, a country used to label an agricultural product or a foodstuff [19
originating in that region, specific place or country,
the quality or characteristics of which are essentially or exclusively due to a particular geographical environment, and
the production, processing and preparation of which take place in defined geographical area.
The most important characteristic of a regional food product is its high quality. It is a result of such products being manufactured using high quality ingredients. Additionally, characteristics of the products can be determined by climatic factors and natural topography. In the European Union, regional products are seen as special goods but also as European cultural heritage [20
Food producers and marketers around the globe have long realized the importance of branding and labeling geographic associations of food products. This type of association often introduces price premia [21
]. Regional products are certified using three designations: Protected Designation of Origin, Protected Geographical Indication, and Traditional Specialty Guaranteed. The first of the three is a symbol which specifies the name of the region, place or country used to describe an agri-food product originating from this place. In case of such products, their production as well as preparation should be carried out exclusively in the assigned area [25
The right to use the Protected Geographical Indication certification is reserved for food products or agricultural products the name of which should be identified with a region, place, or country of its origin and production. In contrast to the Protected Designation of Origin here only one phase of production has to take place in a particular area [26
According to the Council Regulation (EC) No. 509/2006 [27
] traditional product is a product which has specific character—which means that it has one or a few characteristics that in some way make this agricultural product or foodstuff different from similar products or foodstuff belonging to the same category whereby, the characteristic or a few characteristics may refer to its physical, chemical, microbiological or organoleptic qualities, method of production, or specific production conditions [19
]. As stated by Kupracz [28
] traditional products can be defined as agricultural products, foodstuffs, and spirit drinks the quality or unique characteristics as well as properties of which are a result of using traditional production methods (on a small scale). These methods are considered to be traditional if they have been used for at least 25 years. In Poland, such products are put on the list of traditional products kept by the minister in charge of matters pertaining to agricultural markets.
As it can be concluded from the above considerations, regional product is most of all a certified product. Sometimes, its production is based on traditional formula and it is not mass produced. Similarly, traditional product is produced using traditional methods of production. Moreover, regional product is partially or entirely produced in a specific geographical area. Taking the above into account, how can we define a local product? Boros et al. [29
] pointed out the attributes that characterize local food. They are as follows:
geographical distance between the place of production and the target consumer,
methods of production that relate to environmental sustainability, e.g., reduce the use of synthetic chemicals and energy-based fertilizers,
personality and ethics of the food producer, attractiveness of the farm as well as the landscape,
strong social ties between farm-producer and the surrounding environment.
The above concept emphasizes the role of a farm which is also a producer of the local food. Meanwhile, some authors of publications use the term local food when referring to businesses owned by big producers. For example, Kokkinakisa et al. [30
] took up the subject of producing local food in Greece (Crete). In his publication, he presented the functioning of the HACCP system in three large production facilities: ice-cream, ready-made sandwiches, and bottled water production facilities.
It is worth mentioning that the most used criteria for putting manufactured products into analyzed categories are place of production and perceiving products as being locally produced. Taking into consideration the geographical aspect, local food is food produced within 100 km from the place of residence of the buyer. Local products are associated more closely with a particular town or village than with a region [31
]. What is important is that local products are protected by law [32
]. Local products may become regional or traditional products [33
Another important characteristic of local products is that they are manufactured on a small scale in environmentally friendly manner, and they use local ingredients [34
]. As a result, this type of production is very profitable from the social, environmental, and economic point of view. Due to its originality, it can become a showpiece not only of a particular town but also of an entire region. This type of production is also a way of implementing the sustainable development policy. This concept is described as development, where the main focus is on fulfilling current needs while simultaneously caring for the needs of future generations and, to do so, it is required to protect natural environment [35
Bearing in mind the above definitions of analyzed products, a comparison of regional, traditional, and local food and their examples was created and presented in Table 2
Data included in the table show that the definitions presented in literature and legal acts are fuzzy, which was already emphasized. Also, Granvik et al. confirmed that the interpretations and definitions of the term local food might be confusing and may lead to misunderstandings [36
That is why, a new, own, and unambiguous definition of local food was created. Local food is a product or a preparation of the agri-food sector, non-certified, not mass produced, produced using best quality ingredients (from verified producers, who produce them in the same area), closely associated with the town or village where the production takes place, with consideration for the sustainable development policy.
Who then, is a local entrepreneur? As it was pointed out in the introduction, no coherent definition of local entrepreneurship was coined in source literature. There are also no regulations or norms which define such type of entrepreneurship. Analysis of the data from the Polish Central Statistical Office (GUS) and from portals devoted to local food producers indicated that it is difficult to estimate how big the general population is. GUS does not keep statistics pertaining to local enterprises (it only publishes figures encompassing the number of all enterprises in the region- divided according to their size).
Based on Sautet [37
], it was concluded that local entrepreneurship is a socially productive activity which is limited to a small number of market transactions. It does not create a complicated division of work, it does not involve raising a substantial capital, and it is based on personal and informal relationships. Local entrepreneur/producer is in practice an entity which is a micro-enterprise, i.e., it employs less than 10 employees and has an annual turnover not exceeding 2 million euros [38
]. He processes his ingredients using his own formula. In the course of the process he develops his passions thanks to which he can generate an additional or sole source of income.
3.2. Description of Research Topics and Research Results in the Analyzed Area
Analysis of the content of publications included in Table 1
allows for the conclusion that the research presented in scientific literature focuses on the following issues:
local food in the context of the idea of sustainable development [7
benefits of local food production [7
transportation of local food and food supply chains [7
supporting local food by governmental and non-governmental initiatives (i.e., educational programs, agri-food systems) [29
producers point of view on local food [53
marketing of local products [7
safety of local food [30
local food in the context of tourism [57
First identified area of research encompasses the idea of sustainable development. Coelho et al. [7
] addressed the problem pertaining to consumption of food produced locally with special consideration for sustainable development practices on both the local and global level. They pointed out that promoting such food is a complex problem that includes environmental issues, economy, and health. Moreover, they concluded that transport is not the only deciding factor when it comes to the volume of local food consumption. Technologies used in agricultural production have a much greater impact owing to the fact that they are responsible for the degree of sustainability of production and supplying food to people. They have also emphasized the fact that consumption of local food produced in a way that is in harmony with local environment and using ecological technologies is also beneficial for the economy and society.
In the research conducted by Edwards-Jones [39
] special attention was given to the issue of following the sustainable development policy when producing local food and on the health-promoting qualities of local food. For that reason, the authors analyzed source literature looking for arguments confirming the environmental and health benefits of such food. The analysis indicated that no proof confirming this phenomenon was found. As a result, they came to the conclusions that in the future a more in-depth and comprehensive research should be conducted to analyze the issue more thoroughly.
Research devoted to the subject of transportation of local food and food supply chains was conducted by, i.e., Korhonen et al. [41
]. They have characterized the issue of customers’ interest in local food in Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland. Short food supply chains proved to be an important aspect of this research. The authors concluded that short food supply chains are the key to developing local food markets as they are connected to giving customers easier access to local food. In Finland, the local food program is an instrument which has been steering and supporting the national food policy since 2014. It has been implemented by means of administrative measures as well as development activities encompassing all entities in the local food chain. Logistic cooperation is highly organized around the typical production in Finland such as animal husbandry and milk production. Due to the fact, that logistics chains are highly oriented towards wholesale and retail there are some difficulties related to transporting local food to consumers. In this case, such food is distributed via very small operators, mainly by the farmers. The above-mentioned authors devised a method for analyzing the potential for integral networking of producers and transportation companies by combining qualitative and quantitative geographic information system (GIS)-based analysis.
Whereas, Romero-Lopez & Ramos [43
] searched for connections between producers and consumers in a small agricultural market in Mexico. They identified two short food supply chains used for selling eggs which reduced the distance between the producer and consumer, which in turn, enabled the exchange of information regarding, e.g., egg origin or egg production practices. Conducted research had a positive effect on increasing consumers’ knowledge and trust in small-scale producers and their products. Moreover, the producer–consumer relationships in short chains allow for closeness, trust, and exchange of information.
The aspect that is closely associated with supporting agriculture is the aspect of agri-food systems. Sanz-Cañada & Muchnik [51
] described one of such systems namely Local Agro-Food Systems (LAFS) in North America and Europe. In the research on LAFS the term of local food origins is based on the historical and biocultural analysis of food identity. Belonging of such products to a particular place is determined based on natural, cultural, socio-economic, and demographic factors. Additionally, geographical and organizational proximity is important from the socio-cultural as well as economic point of view in the context of group actions aiming at developing rural areas. LAFS is a reflection of certain spatial density and a network of farms and enterprises cooperating in order to produce and introduce local products based on identity to the market. There is a need for an interdisciplinary view, where the emergence and the evolution of food based on identity is as important as understanding the role it plays in creating sustainable development of rural areas in the future. However, currently, not only the quality of products, their sensory properties or agri-food systems are important in promoting local food, what is also important is the innovativeness of such products. Authors devoted attention to that issue because food centers, food innovation districts as well as agricultural commodities markets are main examples of local gastronomy which can attract consumers. Thereby, they increase the interaction between communities, improve access to local healthy food and provide new market for small enterprises.
Another study conducted in North America (North Carolina) was devoted to local food systems created in the last 15 years. The authors pointed out that food hubs are part of an expanding network of local food distribution infrastructure aiming at helping small, local farms access not only local but also national market. However, the influence of food hubs on the region’s developing food system is contradictory. It is so, because on one hand food centers contribute to developing local food supply chains and by that they create market opportunities for the farms, but on the other they may also work against bigger and long-term goals of the local food movement. Taking as an example the systems operating in the western North Carolina it was concluded that the food hubs are used as primary mechanisms for building local food systems and that building local food systems requires to engage people in the processes which can shape production, technology, and distribution of local food [50
Other research conducted in North Carolina (the United States of America) in 2012 was also devoted to the issue of local food systems. Additionally, an attempt was made at estimating the willingness of consumers to pay for locally grown products. In relation to that, the authors carried out a survey which was divided into few sections i.e.,: current consumption of agricultural products, learning about the knowledge and opinions of the respondents (340 people) on the subject of local food and local food systems as well as socio-economic demographic characteristics (age, gender, level of education, etc.). Obtained results indicate that households are willing to pay 11% more for local products in comparison to agricultural products not produced locally. Introducing a local food system into a particular area may result in strengthening local food distribution networks. The analysis indicated that such system allows to foster economic development through agglomeration and clustering, improvement of the quality of life in the region, stimulating social capital formation, and it may be the basis for regional branding strategies [52
Benedek and Balázs [45
] analyzed the situation of local food systems (LFS) in Hungary. The authors have also described the food relocalization index (PIFRI—Policy Intervention for Food Relocalization Index) in order to quantitatively reveal how rural development program measures should be allocated efficiently to promote local food production. This index additionally points out underdeveloped areas that require further support and as a result it helps in setting goals of food policy. LFS in Hungary is in the early stages of development. Only in Budapest it is involved in short food supply chains. In their research paper, the authors concluded that PIFRI may be a valuable and easy tool to be used for mapping local food activity and may support rural development planning processes in Hungary. Other authors who focused their attention on food systems are Papaoikonomou and Gineis [49
]. They focused their attention on two other systems: Community Supported Agriculture in Manhattan, New York and Responsible Consumption Cooperatives in Catalonia, Spain which allowed them to study the relationship between producers and consumers of local food.
Ballantyne-Brodie & Telalbasic [44
] focused their attention on the issue of ensuring that society has possibility to implement food systems and studied ways to effectively design post-capitalist models for food systems. In order to do so, they described three case studies characterizing the following systems: ‘Shepparton’, ‘Dandenong’, and ‘Coltivando’. The first of the three systems was created in Regional Victoria, Australia. It was created due to the serious economic issues resulting from cheap importation of fruit. The second system pertains to food strategies of the City of Greater Dandenong, Metropolitan Melbourne (Australia). The local food strategy was designed in order to support food policy. The last of the three systems was created in Politecnico di Milano, Italy. This project led to establishing urban agriculture. The first of the three projects was carried out on the premises of the university garden. Described cases show that local institutions are changing their attitudes towards citizens and vice versa. The ability to adjust to socio-economic changes is the key here, as it drives the business design process of local food systems to generate sustainable and scalable models. The model creates a platform for building capacities by strengthening the position of local people in order for them to take an active part in setting up food systems.
Whereas, the results of the study conducted by Lutz et al. [47
] show that cooperation between farmers is a good way of creating local food systems in Australia. The study demonstrated that local production infrastructure, processing, and distribution are becoming more approachable when farmers cooperate with each other, consumers and institutions. Additionally, the authors pointed out that sharing knowledge helps to optimize local agriculture and food supply systems (farmers are often lacking knowledge and time to establish new cooperation or to reorganize work, distribution, and communication).
] raised the issue of federal, state, and local policy in the United States of North America in the context of supporting local food systems. Local food was linked to several government actions, i.e., improving rural economy and supporting agricultural producers. What is important is that United States policy lowers the barriers that inhibit further growth of local food markets, e.g., lack of infrastructure for increasing local food sales, producers lacking sufficient knowledge. Positive actions that should be taken up in this context are: increasing small farms’ production, fulfilling the needs of bigger retail outlets, creating ability to track the origins of the product, and educating producers on the subject of local food expansion.
An important part of research on local food is related to consumer preferences. For example, in Italy a survey was carried out in order to assess factors influencing consumers’ perceptions of Riso e Rane Carnaroli. Preliminary research results revealed that consumers are more aware of such information as: the origins of the product, local food system, and tradition, than for example DNA tested certification [55
]. Rytkönen et al. [57
] focused on the issue of identifying preferences as well as factors motivating consumers and tourists to buy local artisanal cheese in Jämtland (Sweden). They have conducted two surveys in Östersund. The place where the survey was conducted was selected based on the fact that farms, farm cafés, and markets are the main sales channels for dairy. The research determined that respondents appreciate combinations of various attributes defined as MDDPS—market-driven direct produce system; and CTS—close typicity system. In MDDPS, it was determined that the nature of relationships between producers and consumers can be specified by the level of common knowledge between the buyers and sellers. In this system, the involvement of consumers is often a result of searching for unconventional food production. In CTS, it is the relationship between the product and region that plays the central role when it comes to consumer deciding to buy a product. Moreover, the survey revealed that respondents choose local products firstly, because of their ‘good taste ‘and ‘high quality’. The authors also concluded that purchasing this type of food is very often determined by tradition and historical ties of the consumers with the region in which local products are being produced.
Similar subject was taken up by Albrecht and Smithers [53
]. They conducted a survey among 13 producers of local food (meat products) and 31 consumers in the Southwestern Ontario (Canada) between June and September of 2013. The area of their research was focused on identifying ways in which farmers shape ‘value’ and ‘quality’ of the manufactured products and assess the preferences for such products (questions pertained to farm size, produced goods, and the frequency of the consumer/producer interaction). Whereas, when it comes to consumers the authors focused on their opinions, expectations, and motivations for buying local food. Therefore, they were looking for factors that could bring the two studied groups together. Collected information enabled the authors to formulate conclusions which indicated that making connections between producers of local food and consumers is appreciated by both parties in terms of profitability (producers) and the health-promoting nature of the manufactured products (consumers). Authors came to the conclusion that creating connections between producers and consumers is determined by what both groups have to offer to each other (sharing collected knowledge, raising awareness of local products, and various partnerships between producers).
Another research devoted to the issue of consumers’ interest in local food was conducted by Lim and Hu [56
]. Their aim was to determine consumers’ demand for local food (pork chops, local beef) and point out barriers for purchasing such types of food. A survey was conducted with 1406 respondents from Connecticut (North America). Results of the survey revealed that the most crucial purchasing barrier is the price and availability of local products. The authors drew attention to the health-promoting properties of such food products suggesting that they may be helpful in fighting with obesity in the United States. Crespo et al. [54
] focused their attention on the role of social capital in developing the region. They have concluded that nowadays farmers have to face the challenge of product certification that would allow local society to transform their resources and the know-how into new market opportunities.
Halldórsdóttir and Nicholas [40
] conducted research which focused on identifying behavioral barriers influencing production and consumption of local food in Iceland. The authors assessed the structure of pro-ecological behaviors which result in purchasing local food in the context of three groups of factors: structural (sustainable production), cultural, and personal (sustainable consumption). With that in mind they have analyzed the survey data on cultural norms and purchasing behaviors of local food consumers. The data was obtained from the Matis research and development company. As a result of the conducted research they came to the conclusion that two-thirds of the respondents find it important to support local agriculture (in the context of environmentally friendly production). They have also identified barriers which decrease demand for local food. They were as follows: decrease in variety of food (structural barrier) and skepticism of the consumers (as a barrier hindering the growth of consumption of such food).
The significance that local food has for the modern consumer was described in the research carried out by Litavniece et al. [72
]. Their goal was to study local food choices and how they are used by modern consumers. Over 500 respondents from Łatgalii (Latvia) took part in the research which was conducted in 2017. The survey was conducted in order to assess the extent of people’s knowledge on the subject of local as well as functional and ecological food. Additionally, they asked how often are the responders choosing local food and what is their attitude towards that choice. The results revealed that consumers pay attention to the quality of food, date of production and price. They have also concluded that responders are regularly purchasing food from local producers.
While in the research conducted by Wenzing and Gruchmann [58
], who studied preferences of consumers vis-à-vis local food, (327 respondents took part in the research) the researchers demonstrated that respondents have some limitations when it comes to buying local food that are related to lack of knowledge in this area.
Another important issue associated with local food is related to producers promoting their products, e.g., via educational programs. This issue was described by local food researchers in Spain. They aimed to recognize and characterize activities promoting purchase of local food intended for schools and local education centers. They were looking for governmental and non-governmental initiatives which organize programs that promote this type of food in schools and other autonomous communities. The non-governmental initiatives were found on the internet and were analyzed in terms of their geographical distribution, organizational area, number of schools, management style, and purchasing local food. In the course of the research, they identified 12 (6 governmental and 6 non-governmental) initiatives that were carried out by 318 schools (which constitutes 2.16% of all Spanish schools which have their own food services). They have concluded that local initiatives promoting buying food in Spain have limited scope [61
Boros et al. [29
] have also focused their attention on the way local food product manufacturers are promoted by the trading policy of one of the largest Hungarian food retailer chains. They conducted a supplementary analysis in categories which offered very few regional food products. They came to a conclusion that the percentage of sales of products produced locally is higher in these categories in which production is less complicated and the role of complex marketing is less important. In those categories where professional marketing tools or production procedures are required the existing producers were able to keep their significant market position. The authors drew attention to the need to produce food of the highest quality after scandals related to bad quality of products. Therefore, the government of Hungary realized that there is a necessity to create new legal conditions to define local food. This decision led to creation of ‘Hungaricum Act’ which describes the typical Hungarian traditional food and ‘Local Product Act’ which determines which products could be called local.
In North America (State of Michigan) in 2013 a project under the name of Grand Rapids Downtown Market (DTM) was developed in order to create space for producing local food, entrepreneurship, supporting health of the community, and providing work places. The aim of the project was to ensure that consumers have the possibility to buy healthy food. Creation of this concept allowed to promote local food systems to boost economy by agglomeration of small producers located in the region. Food innovation districts are supposed to stimulate job growth, increase healthy food options, and create a ‘sense of place’, concentrating on improving the quality of life of local residents [46
The next area of research associated with local food is the issue of local food security. Burke et al. [62
] in their research focused on local food stored in traditional storage cellars in Alaska (North America). They focused their attention on food stored by the poorest section of society living in rural areas. This section of society includes in their diet foods that are mostly natural and made at home. They conducted interviews on the basis of which they determined that food stored in storage cellars is microbiologically safe.
Another issue related to local food production is tourism. Although there are many studies on behaviors of tourists, they rarely take into consideration the influence of local food on tourists’ experiences. Demand for local food generated by tourists occurs on many levels of intensity. For that reason, tourists could be divided into those who travel around the region for gastronomic reasons and those who treat local food just as an addition to their experience. Sengel et al. [65
] studied factors that have influence on choosing local food by tourists in various parts of the Old Town of Istanbul. They have concluded that the issue of food tourism is important because it is a new trend and also because gastronomy has started to be recognized as a symbolic value representing territories and culture in tourism. Beforehand, local food was considered to be an additional rather than the main attraction of the visited place. Culinary tourism, beyond the dishes offered by a region, encompasses getting to know local food producers, visiting food festivals, restaurants, as well as purchasing local products directly from producers. According to Forné [63
] food tourism is currently one of the most important and specialized tourist niches. Tourism benefits from traditional farming and breeding in the context of rural tourism. Local gastronomy reflects the fusion between natural and cultural characteristics of the region. Therefore, culinary heritage has to act as a source of local development by overcoming the seasonal character of demand for tourism. It is then necessary to aim for balance, so that the citizens and tourists could live in a region in a sustainable way.
The issue of culinary tourism was also taken up by Madaleno et al. [64
]. The authors conducted an empirical study in Portugal (Lisbon, Porto, and Coimbra) in 2015. The study involved 500 respondents. The aim of the study was to specify the factors which have influence on the decision to purchase local food products by foreign guests from Portugal. It was determined that approximately 84% of respondents enjoy buying local food during their travels. The factors that influence tourists when they make the decision to purchase food are related to their personality and their motivation to make a purchase as well as determining relationships between the place of production and the local product itself. It turned out that the authenticity as well as the appearance of local food has a positive influence on the decisions of the consumers. They have then pointed out that certification of local products should be taken into consideration when specifying the policy actions promoting local products.
In the research conducted in North America (Southwestern Ontario) authors drew attention to the issue of local food in the context of its health promoting properties. For that purpose they created a research project promoting this type of food by means of using an application designed for smartphones named ‘SmartAPPetite‘. The application was designed to encourage healthy dietary behaviors by reducing educational, behavioral, and economic barriers. SmartAPPetite proved to be effective in improving awareness and consumption of healthy food and it also drew people to local food producers more frequently than traditional measures [67
In another study focused on describing the problem of obesity, authors compiled an overview of literature (review research) and described conceptual framework characterizing the health-promoting indicators of local food. They have found 177 research papers which correspond with the subject in question. The research demonstrated that obesity is a result of lack of energy balance (from the ingested food) and little physical activity (sedentary lifestyle) [69
Morland and Evenson [68
] as well as Pelletier et al. [70
], and Cobb et al. [66
] described the issue of consumer obesity and confronted it with consumption of local food. Each of the research was conducted in the United States. The authors of the first and the second paper carried out surveys where 1295 respondents took part in the 2003 survey and 1201 respondents took part in the 2010 survey respectively. In case of the first study, the authors concluded that prevalence of obesity was lower in areas that had supermarkets and higher in areas with small grocery stores or fast food restaurants. The second study determined that approximately half of the respondents gave local food high marks. Additionally, respondents who pay a lot of attention to purchasing local food consume much more fruit and vegetables, dietary fiber, and less sugar and fat in comparison to people who do not pay attention to the food they purchase. The last paper used a review of literature pertaining to the described issue as the research method. They have found 71 matching papers which proved that there are no links between presence of food establishments and obesity. Table 3
presents geographical areas where research on local food is most prevalent.
The conclusion based on the data from Table 3
is that issues relating to the subject of local food production are taken up most frequently by researchers from the USA. Researchers from European countries are focusing mainly on: issues relating to tourism (Spain, Portugal), food safety (Greece), and marketing (Spain, Hungary) as well as the meaning that the local food has for the consumer (Italy, Sweden, Iceland, Latvia, and Germany), and the idea of sustainable development (Great Britain).