For products such as the iconic and much-loved Champagne, Spanish Rioja, Italian Coppa di Parma, Modena balsamic vinegar or French Roquefort, their geographical origin is effectively their brand.
Each producer within the area has their own unique company brand, but as a collective, they uphold the geographical brand, the GI (Geographical Indication) as dictated by the European Commission.
How does champagne protect its brand reputation?
Take the example of champagne. Worldwide, there are multitudes of sparkling wines but only those that originate in Champagne, France can be marketed under that name within the EU. Some English sparkling wines such as Hambledon Cuvée (made in Hampshire) are of superior quality, but are unable to associate themselves with the 'Champagne' brand. However, this could all change post-Brexit, if the UK abandons the EU GI system.
When people think of Champagne, they think expensive luxury, exclusivity and top-notch quality. Naturally, its producers want to protect that hard-won brand recognition from being undermined by poorer quality sparkling wines, just like any other brand would.
Here at Ultimate we understand the fundamentals of product branding. It’s about building a strong emotional relationship between the consumer and the product. When purchasing an expensive bottle of champagne from prestigious champagne houses such as Moet, the bubbles feel indulgent and the drinker feels ever so sophisticated.
Our team love to enjoy a gratifying glass of champagne, to celebrate what we have achieved together and the receipt of awards for our amazing creative campaigns. We like to know that by selecting a bottle labelled 'champagne' we are certain we are purchasing a product of excellence, worthy of the occasion.
Although the issue of GIs has only recently featured in the UK news thanks to their uncertain future post-Brexit, the subject of food products associated with a geographic, quality-based reputation akin to a brand, has been a cause of controversy for decades. The notion came into being in the wine world first of all, following decades of abuse and the destruction of livelihoods caused by passing off one poorer quality product as another of superior quality.
It may seem shocking that in the first decade of the 20th century, many bottles of ‘Champagne’ actually consisted of Languedoc, German or Spanish grapes and even from English rhubarb. These fraudulent bottles of 'champagne' caused a lot of heartache for producers and disappointment for swindled customers. Imagine purchasing a bottle of Bolli that was in fact disguised fermented rhubarb juice?
But do UK consumers really care about distinguishing their brut, from their champagne or prosecco?
The Technical Stuff....What are GIs?
GIs are geographical indications used to identify a product as originating in the territory of a particular country, region or locality where its quality, reputation or other characteristic is linked to its geographical origin.’ GIs can only be used by producers from the region of origin and by producers that follow authentic production methods.
Rather than disengaging from the GI system, as suggested in the UK Government’s recent white paper, perhaps Britain should just continue protecting fantastic food brands (Scotch Whisky, Cumberland sausage, West County Farmhouse Cheddar) and exceeding consumer’s expectations. When it comes to brand, a excellent reputation is hard-earned. Why risk tarnishing the good name of much-loved British products?