What’s at Stake

If generic food names are monopolized by any one body or country, there are serious ramifications throughout the agricultural and commercial chains – for a wide number of countries throughout the world.

For Consumers…

  • Higher prices as a result of less competition within a recognizable product category
  • Fewer choices in stores
  • Confusion about their favorite products and brands

For Farmers…

  • Loss of demand for raw products as sales of foods with common names are impacted
  • Lower prices for farmers due to loss of market share

For Food Producers and Exporters Barred from Using Common Names…

  • Loss of markets that have been built over many years
  • Loss of years of investments and massive capital through costly efforts to re-label and re-brand products
  • Loss in consumer awareness and loyalty
  • Loss in value of their most important assets: their brands

For Food Producers With Protected Names…

  • Less recognition worldwide for their product, so lower potential exports in the long run. (See the asiago example below)

For Retailers…

  • Fewer sales of favorite products, and questions and comments from loyal consumers
  • Restricted selections of recognizable products
  • Smaller margins due to exclusive rights for common names

Building a Following

The Consortium believes that, in the end, attempts to restrict common names are counter-productive for all concerned. Production of similar products outside of Europe can actually help further grow the market for all – including European producers.

Take the example of asiago: A federal standard for how to make the category of asiago cheese has existed since 1977 (almost 20 years before the EC granted geographical indication recognition to asiago for exclusive use within the EU). Despite its long-time usage in the Americas, consumption of asiago cheese in the United States was relatively limited until a few U.S. dairies increased production and the restaurant chain Panera Bread began to sell asiago bagels.

Panera has now sold millions of asiago bagels, and American consumers are very familiar with asiago cheese. This is not due to asiago producers in Italy, but to producers in the United States and around the world that have been manufacturing and marketing this product for years. Many other major chain restaurants now use asiago cheese, and most of it is not imported from Italy. But in fact, these efforts have played a major role in opening up markets to greater imports of asiago from Italy, which had not previously exported much of that type of cheese to countries like the United States.

Similarly, Mozzarella di Bufala Campana would be a much less valuable geographical indication if cheese producers around the world had not, over many generations, developed a market for the type of cheese known as mozzarella.