The protection of geographical indications (European regulation 1151/2012) is arguably the most significant initiative, certainly within Europe, that promotes foods with territorial associations. Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)—also referred to as Geographical Indications (GIs)—are credited with generating significant economic value at an EU-level, especially in certain countries [1
]. They can also help to deliver territorial rural development policy and develop new food markets. For these reasons they are an important component of what Wiskerke [2
] calls an integrated and territorial agri-food paradigm, where food production is based upon the specific qualities and distinctive features of an area or region. This paradigm is “built around a highly differentiated definition of food quality, which reflects differences in farming systems, organisational networks, cultural traditions, consumer preferences, institutional frameworks and policy support” ([2
], p. 374). Three processes are important in Wiskerke’s [2
] territorial paradigm: first, (re)connecting, where the various players link up with each other to form close regional networks and engender social capital; secondly, embedding, where distance between food production and consumption is shortened, and the socio-cultural, historical, and landscape characteristics of a region become embodied in the food; and thirdly, intertwining, where the various economic and non-economic activities and roles come together in a region to create coherence and synergy.
In a further elaboration of the territorialised rural development perspective, Kneafsey [3
] argues that the re-regionalisation of food is an outcome of three ‘cross-cutting’ impulses. First, the devolution of governance functions to the regional scale through re-scaling
(cf. Goodman et al. [4
], p. 68–70). Governance rather than government is emphasised and delivery is through partnerships between public, private, and voluntary agencies. Second, changes in the agri-food regime through respacing
and driven by market-based ecological modernisation. Consumer demands for foods of local provenance are critical here and help to valorise local and regional foods. Certification, including the EU’s PDO and PGI food and drink quality schemes, is also an important part of this valorisation process [5
]. However, Kneafsey ([3
], p. 184) is critical as to whether this legislation can really stimulate regional food networks, and for this reason argues that re-spacing should be viewed primarily as a driver of regional foods rather than regionalised food networks. Third is re-connection
, which is about supporting food that is produced, retailed, and consumed in a specific territory. As Kneafsey ([3
], p. 185) explains, “whereas rescaling and respacing attend primarily to policy and market dimensions, the reconnection perspective excavates the multiple and sometimes contradictory motives expressed by individuals and agencies involved in the construction of territorially-embedded food projects and initiatives”.
This paper is concerned with further exploring this territorialised rural development perspective, particularly the potential of the PDO scheme to re-scale and re-space the agri-food regime in different national contexts. A significant proportion of European research literature to date has been concerned with some aspect of reterritorialisation, notably “the efforts of small agro-food producers and processors located in marginal rural areas to carve out niche market opportunities by selling high-quality ‘speciality’ products through ‘short’ supply chains and more direct, sometimes re-localised, relationships with consumers” ([3
], p. 181; see also [4
]). The interest here is more in terms of understanding the way PDOs are implemented at a supply chain level and their impact and influence as a strategy of reterritorialisation. The development of reterritorialisation strategies, including PDO and PGI schemes, has benefited significantly from reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and in particular the Rural Development Regulation which has encouraged a more integrated and endogenous approach to rural development [6
]. However, the way pan-European regulations are interpreted and understood at member state and supply chain levels can be very different and can significantly determine reterritorialisation potential.
Analysis of what we know to date regarding GIs as instruments of reterritorialisation is reviewed below. As Rippon ([1
], p. 2) explains, “[t]he GI system is predicated on the belief that the physical characteristics of defined places are able to generate foods and drinks of exceptional and unreproducible quality”. Policy initiatives to promote foods with territorial associations became prominent in the early 1990s [5
]. The labels were seen as indicative of a quality turn and characteristic of attempts to encourage territorial rural development [9
]. Regulation 2081/92 on the Protection of Geographical Indications and Designation of Origins for Agricultural Products and Foodstuffs was introduced by the European Union in 1992 and is more commonly referred to as the European “quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs“. The impetus for the Regulation was ”to encourage the production of quality foods, assist poorer lagging regions, allow producers to charge higher prices and inform consumers about the origin of their produce” ([1
], p. 2). The system is similar to the long established French, Italian, and Spanish Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system, where groups of producers can apply for either a PDO (product originates from a specific place and is linked to its natural/geographical environment) or a PGI (product is linked to a particular place, but not necessarily in terms of its raw materials) [5
]. More generally, and according to cross-country analysis, justification for the protection of geographical indications finds historical root in four dimensions: fair competition, quality and market management, rural development policy, and protection of natural resources [10
The number of PDO and PGI designations has increased steadily, from 450 in 2000 to 760 in 2008, 970 by 2011, and 1196 by March 2014 [1
]. Table 1
summarises the number of designations at an EU scale and for the 27 individual member states. A number of key points can be discerned. Firstly, GIs have a distinct geography, with a strong concentration of PDOs/PGIs in southern European countries (Spain, France, Greece, Italy, and Portugal) and a relative scarcity in northern and eastern European countries (only Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, and the United Kingdom have more than 10, for example). Secondly, these data reflect the cultural significance and connection with regional foods in southern European societies [8
], a connection which is less evident in more northern societies. Thirdly, GIs generate significant economic value at an EU-level and especially in certain countries (notably Italy, Germany, France, and the UK), a distribution which is not always reflected by the relative number of GIs per country. Past research suggests there are also significant differences in PDO/PGI geography (see [11
]). For example, PDOs have tended to outnumber PGIs in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece, but the opposite pattern is evident in France, Germany, and the UK. Inter-country variation for the types of food and drink products receiving PDO/PGI status is also evident. Cheeses are popular in France and to a lesser extent the UK and Austria, for example, but fruit, vegetables, and cereals are dominant in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece and oils and fats are only of significance in Italy, Greece, and Spain.
Watts et al. [13
] believe that, despite considerable government encouragement, PDO/PGI potential for stimulating economic development in regions that lack a developed culture of terroir
(i.e., that develops strong associations between the place where a food is produced and its quality) is limited. Ilbery and Kneafsey [5
], in their examination of PDO/PGI designations in the UK, also expressed some reservations about the scheme. They found, for example, that some of the producer groups applying for status were effectively ‘groups of convenience’ that had no real intention of working together. The labels were used to protect their names from cheap imitations rather than as a genuine marketing device. More recently, a comparison between Austrian and Italian PDOs has shown that a lack of co-operation and empowerment of producer groups may hinder implementation, as in an Austrian case, where the producer group concerned finally withdrew their registration [14
]. A review of the economic effects of PDOs/PGIs has shown that they are constrained by many independent factors, and therefore are very variable [15
This paper extends and complements previous analyses of GIs (especially PDOs) as instruments to enable more territorialised agri-food governance. The aim is to move beyond general analysis of PDO/PGI schemes and to look in detail at how they are applied at a product-specific level (other studies have adopted a similar approach, for example, De Roest and Menghi’s [16
] study of Parmigiano Reggiano). To develop this perspective, we examine the way the PDO scheme has been developed and applied in one commodity sector (cheese) in two country contexts (Switzerland and the UK), where the uptake of PDOs is variable. Switzerland is not part of the European Union but as an associated member of the EU has actively supported and implemented PDO and PGI for its food and drink products. (For example, in 2015 PDOs and PGIs generated 670 million CHF (627 million €) at the production level and 1.4 billion CHF (1.3 billion €) turnover at retail level [17
]).The comparison of practices and understandings of the PDO scheme in Switzerland and the UK is now all the more pertinent since the vote in the UK on 23 June 2016 to leave the European Union, which means that a model not dissimilar to Switzerland may be necessary in future, at least as it relates to GIs. Further explanation for the choice of sector and countries is provided in the next section of the paper. The results are then presented, which outline an analysis of how four cheese PDOs are implemented in Switzerland and the UK. The discussion and conclusion identify wider lessons that can be learned from the case material by way of recommendation, particularly in terms of the potential of GIs to act as governance instruments to rescale and respace the agri-food regime.
2. Materials and Methods
The data presented in this paper are drawn from an EU project called GLAMUR—Global and Local Food Chain Assessment: A Multi-Dimensional Performance-based Approach [18
] —that examined the sustainability of global and local food chains. The overall assessment compared the economic, social, ethical, health, and environmental impacts of 39 food supply chains belonging to seven different sectors (apples, berries, bread, cheese, pork, tomatoes, and wine) (see Brunori et al. [19
] for details). This paper draws on work conducted in Switzerland and the UK for the cheese supply chain case study (see also Schmitt et al. [20
]). In each country two cheese supply chains were selected, one with ‘local’ characteristics and one with ‘global’ characteristics: L’Etivaz (local) and Le Gruyère (global) in Switzerland and Single Gloucester (local) and cheddar (global) in the UK. Schmitt et al. [20
] provide a detailed comparative analysis of the sustainability performance of the four cheeses. In this paper the focus is on comparing one aspect of sustainability performance that was only briefly examined in the overview paper: PDO governance. PDO emerged as an important governance strategy, with notable differences between Switzerland and the UK in terms of how the scheme is used to organise and respatialise supply chains. The paper compares PDO governance for each cheese in the two countries in terms of:
the history and origins of the label,
governance influence in determining supply chain structure and reterritorialisation, and
The goal is to draw out the differences that emerged between the cases and the wider lessons that can be learned from this product-level country comparison.
A series of research steps were taken to develop the comparative analysis of cheese supply chains in Switzerland and the UK. Aspects that helped to reveal the way PDO legislation was implemented and its impact across the four cheese cases studied are described below. The study adopted a supply chain perspective. The first step was a detailed description of each supply chain. The purpose was to identify key characteristics that differentiate ‘global’ and ‘local’ supply chains in each country and to provide a contextual analysis of production-consumption issues for cheese in each country. This exercise revealed key performance issues, including the role of certification and the use of the PDO scheme. It also informed the selection of the two cheese supply chains to be studied in each country (L’Etivaz and Le Gruyère in Switzerland and Single Gloucester and cheddar in the UK), which was made in close discussion with stakeholders from the sector in each country.
There were then three main phases of work undertaken to examine the two cheese supply chains selected for study in both countries. First, analysis of supply chain performance for the four cheeses studied at the producer stage was undertaken. In Switzerland, 11 interviews were conducted with farmer-cheesemakers in the local chain. In the global chain, 53 milk producers, 18 cheesemakers, four cheese ripeners, and the Inter-branch Organization were interviewed. In the UK, six producers were selected from a database of over 20 producers for detailed supply chain analysis. This number represents two producers from each of two types of farmhouse cheeses (Single Gloucester and farmhouse cheddar), and two creamery producers of cheddar. During the interviews producers were asked a number of questions, including questions about the PDO label, its role and importance to their business, etc. Secondly, a series of interviews were conducted in the UK with milk producers, wholesalers, and retailers in the supply chain who had involvement with one or more of the cheeses studied; again, some specific questions related to PDOs were asked, including the importance and value of obtaining the PDO for the cheeses studied. In Switzerland, one input company and five retailers were interviewed or sent questionnaires by e-mail. A total of 12 supply chain interviews were conducted for the UK case study. The PDO code of practice for each cheese, which provides detailed guidance and rules about how the cheese should be produced and where, were also examined for the four cheeses studied. The first two phases of work thus covered agricultural production, primary processing (milk aggregation and cheese making), secondary processing (cheese refining), and retailing. The consumption stage was studied in a final phase of research. Consumer perspectives were explored through a series of four consumer focus groups in the UK and one in Switzerland. Consumers were asked the same research questions in each case. The socio-economic profile, age, and gender of the participants were balanced as far as possible. The focus groups covered a range of issues, including purchasing patterns, buying behaviour, and specific questions about the PDO and consumer understandings of it.
Materials used for data collection, such as interview protocols and focus group schedules, were shared between the research teams to enable comparability, as were analysis procedures, including a ‘knowledge exchange’ visit between the two countries. Analysis of the results was discussed in a stakeholder workshop with supply chain representatives in each country. This final element of the work provided significant input and feedback, including suggestions in terms of how PDOs might be used more effectively as an instrument of reterritorialisation and agri-food governance.
This paper has presented a detailed analysis of PDO regulation and implementation for four hard milk cheeses in Switzerland and the UK, respectively. The material raises a number of general points worthy of discussion, which are summarised in Table 2
and discussed in more detail below. If we look first at the origin and history of PDO legislation, in all four cases PDO status was applied for to protect product identity and/or intellectual property and knowledge associated with the production process. This is most evident and significant in the Le Gruyère case, which faced significant competition and threat from large-scale industrial imitations in Switzerland, in other parts of Europe, and also worldwide. L’Etivaz is sold more regionally and nationally in Switzerland. Producers applied for PDO status in response to a new milk price market structure which was not cost effective. The PDO protects the name and secures price which ultimately enabled producers to continue making the cheese. Only very small volumes of Single Gloucester are made by just six producers. In this case the PDO scheme was applied for to protect the Gloucester cattle breed and the process was driven by one key person. The West Country Farmhouse Cheddar PDO was applied for, similar to Le Gruyère, to help in this case 18 traditional producers in south west England to protect and differentiate their artisan cheese making methods from mass produced brands. In all four cases the PDO was therefore applied for and used as it was intended: i.e., to protect and provide copyright to traditional quality food production methods [1
] and to allow continued production of threatened products.
The way the PDO is implemented as a mode of governance is interesting to compare, especially experiences in Switzerland and the UK, including the way the supply chain is organised and governed for each cheese and the impact this has in terms of pricing, market access, and communication. In Switzerland, both of the cheeses studied are PDO designations. In the UK, Single Gloucester has a PDO, as does West Country cheddar, but the cheddar market contains a number of other generic brands too. In Switzerland, the PDO is a key driver that determines where the cheese is produced, how it is produced (following strict quality criteria), how much of it is produced, the pricing structure, etc. The supply chain is regionally co-ordinated. The scale of operation for Le Gruyère is much larger than L’Etivaz, but production is territorially embedded, with farmer co-operatives co-owning and supplying a local creamery, for example. Farmers thus form a community around their creamery with one cheese maker describing it as a “family”. The UK cheese supply chain, by contrast, is typically made up of a mix of highly competitive individual dairy processors and producers, particularly on the creamery side, and is dominated by a retailer-driven supply chain. The Swiss retail market is also very competitive. In the UK, however, which has embraced PDO/PGI schemes to a lesser extent, cheese processing is more centralised and scaled up for commercial cheese production. The farmhouse sector is less co-ordinated than is evident in Switzerland. PDO quality management does not drive how supply chains are organised in the UK, unlike Le Gruyère, which is a quality product, but also high volume and circulated through national and global supply chains. The Swiss cheese supply chains are organised in a way that secondary processing is managed either by a cooperative (L’Etivaz) or by dedicated ripeners for Le Gruyère, but much less by the producer themselves (Table 2
). Inter-branch organisations also allow for each stakeholder to focus on their job and not too much on advertising, communication, selling, etc., as this is done by the organisation (for which each member pays a contribution). Considering the working schedules of small artisanal producers, this is critical. In the UK, some farmhouse cheese producers still tend to manage more tasks themselves than in Switzerland, for example, they all manage the complete ripening of the cheese. One West Country cheddar producer was launching an initiative to build a cooperative for the common management of ripening to share the costs involved.
The PDO scheme allows producers to value their product according to its production process, for consumers to find specific products for which they know where—and possibly how—they have been produced, and for both to maintain traditional know-how, food, and culture. In Switzerland, most cheeses found in supermarkets are under a PDO, whether they come from Switzerland, Italy, or France; and all major Swiss cheese products are under a PDO, especially hard cheeses for which the Federal Office of Agriculture declared pasteurization forbidden (Le Gruyère, Emmentaler, Sbrinz, Tête de Moine, Vacherin Mont d’Or…). Consumer understanding of PDOs in Switzerland is therefore very important, and a major purchasing driver. The cultural importance of cheeses in Switzerland, like all alpine countries, is very strong. In contrast, PDOs in the UK are only known by a few people and mostly sold in specialised shops. The potential of the PDO to make consumers aware of their cultural food heritage is less evident, as noted in the consumer focus groups (Table 2
PDOs can also be associated with strong inter-branch organisations, as is the case in both L’Etivaz and Le Gruyère. The business relationships along the chain are completely different to a brand or an industrial creamery like the one found for cheddar production in the UK. All stakeholders (at least until the final product), have to follow strict specifications and meet regularly for strategic decisions (marketing, prices, quantities, etc.). The size of the chain is, however, of importance here, as smaller PDOs are more likely to reach consensus. The bargaining power is split between this organisation and the retailers/distributors. As the demand for these specific products exists, the competitiveness which underpins the industrial cheddar market in the UK, for example, is lessened and producers can maintain their traditional value-adding processes. Some farmhouse cheese producers in the UK have gone out of business because of weak bargaining power with supermarkets. The distinctiveness of milk aimed at PDO cheese production has helped to keep it out of the highly competitive and fluctuating milk sector, thereby protecting milk producers.
The PDOs studied in this paper also have an impact on the whole regional economy and are important for rural development, particularly the two Swiss examples. The code of practice rules that prevent up-scaling, for example, also prevent economies of scale and thus foster jobs as manual labour is required. The regional distribution of village creameries in Le Gruyère also provides jobs in a multitude of villages instead of in just one central large creamery, and the production of L’Etivaz has maintained economic activity and a young workforce in a remote alpine region. The number of jobs is also multiplied in annex sectors as, for example, salesmen are needed (and actually it is mostly women who get jobs in cheese shops, with creameries or chalets managed by men). The two Swiss cheese cases also are important consumers of local wood (firewood and ripening shelves must be of local spruce) and salt, among other necessary inputs and services required, such as machinery maintenance, etc.
This paper has examined PDO schemes as mechanisms to re-territorialise the agri-food regime, drawing inspiration from Wiskerke [2
] and Kneafsey’s [3
] work on spatial modes of agri-food governance. The analysis has examined four cheese supply chains in Switzerland and the UK, respectively. In Switzerland the PDO label triggers local development that fosters cooperative working and maintains jobs in rural and remote areas as it determines where and how cheese is produced and especially controls scaling-up. In the UK both cheeses studied have used the PDO scheme to protect the cheese and its associated system of production. For cheddar the PDO’s main functions have been: (i) to delineate production techniques and geographical origins for a cheese of global economic importance, which is made using predominantly industrial production processes; and (ii) the elevation of PDO cheddars into a niche market. This has improved the ability of producers to make returns in a dairy market that faces intense downward price pressures, both in terms of supermarket purchasing strategies and milk prices. Single Gloucester producers are happy to maintain their predominantly local market and the PDO is not seen as having much commercial value. Significantly, the PDO has also been important in terms of helping to preserve the traditional Gloucester cattle breed. In the case of Le Gruyère in particular, the way the supply chain is organised, with farmer co-operatives co-owning and supplying a local creamery, to ensure production remains territorially embedded and is not upscaled, is something that is not so well developed in the UK, but clearly offers significant potential as a model of reterritorialisation if appropriately applied. Similarly in L’Etivaz, the PDO has been essential in maintaining important economic activities in a remote alpine region by re-valuing a traditional product and its mode of production. As Ilbery and Kneafsey [5
] noted, arrangements in the UK are often more through convenience than choice.
In conclusion, the PDO scheme is understood differently in the two countries: it is framed as a strategy to protect product identity and maintain the rural economy in Switzerland by protecting producers and adding value. It is applied as a mechanism to protect product identity in the UK, but also to communicate with consumers. The co-operative spirit and use of the guidelines to effectively protect the rural economy is less evident in the UK. This difference, combined with other contextual factors, impacts the influence PDOs have in terms of respacing and food chain organisation. There is some concern in the UK after the vote to leave the European Union (Brexit) about the future application and viability of geographical indications. The analysis here shows that PDO schemes, if implemented properly, have significant potential to valorise production and protect traditional production systems from market appropriation. PDO status can also help to ensure quality production and can protect rural economies. Our recommendation is to continue supporting these forms of agri-food governance, but to do so in a way that appreciates difference in terms of how member states implement PDO and related schemes relative to national contexts and multi-level supply chain pressures. This contextualisation is important in terms of informing future evaluations of the scheme’s impact and to enable policy learning between member states. In this regard, more work is needed to better understand how PDO/PGI are used differently in different countries, and the influence they have on supply chain governance and organisation.