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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Why are geographical indications unevenly distributed over Europe?

Joosse, Sofie; Olders, Pepijn; Boonstra, Wiebren J.


Purpose Through geographical indications, the European Union aims to stimulate economies, especially in lagging rural regions, and to help consumers recognise and locate quality products from specific regions. The highly uneven distribution of geographical indications, and with that the unequal benefits of this policy, have been identified and discussed in the scientific literature on food and rural development. Design/methodology/approach Using a statistical analysis of the distribution of geographical indications, the paper tests the validity of several theoretical explanations that are offered in the literature for the uneven spatial distribution. Findings From this assessment, the paper concludes, amongst others, that common single-cause explanations for the uneven distribution of labels in Europe have weak explanatory value. Rather, the uneven distribution is based on a complex set of causes, with different effects at national and regional level. Moreover, the findings highlight that in contrast to its aim, the policy does not seem to benefit especially lagging rural regions. Originality/value The analysis of the uneven distribution of labels in Europe offered here suggests that a distinction should be drawn between the mechanisms resulting in regional food products versus the mechanisms resulting in regional food labels, such as geographical indications.


Food labels; Geographical indications; Rural development; Spatial distribution

Published in

British Food Journal
2021, Volume: 123, number: 13, pages: 490-510

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    Economic Geography

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