Successful regional products, such as Florida oranges, Idaho potatoes and Parma ham, often have to compete against products passing themselves off as the authentic product using the exact same name. This unfair competition misleads consumers, discourages small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from marketing products based on their region of origin, and may end up hurting rural economies. To protect consumers, and support SMEs and rural economies, many countries around the world have introduced regulations enabling SMEs to legally protect the names of their regional products. The success of these regulations largely depends on consumers' appreciation of regional certification labels that inform consumers that the name of the regional product is protected and that it denotes the authentic product. To gain an understanding about consumers' appreciation of regional certification labels, this paper investigates consumers' image of these labels and proposes a model that relates this image to consumers' willingness to buy and pay for protected regional products. The model is tested based on Regulation No. 2081/92 that was introduced by the EEC allowing European SMEs to protect their regional products and market their products with a protected-designation-of-origin (PDO) label. Structural equation modelling results suggest that consumers' image of regional certification labels consists of a quality warranty dimension and an economic support dimension, which positively relate to consumers' willingness to buy and pay for the protected regional product. Protecting regional products and marketing them with regional certification labels may be beneficial for SMEs producing and marketing regional products. Policy and managerial implications are discussed.
- product evaluation