Protecting our pies and pasties post-Brexit
What do Cornish Pasties and Melton Mowbray Pork Pies have in common? Well, neither appeal to vegetarians for sure but they share more than their meaty ingredients. Both are also protected food names covered by European legislation on Geographical Indications of Origin (or GIs).
This means that just as Champagne can currently only be produced in specific regions in France, Cornish Pasties can only legally be produced in Cornwall and Melton Mowbray Pies can only legally be produced in Melton and the surrounding areas. The GI legislation goes further, however, also specifying the ingredients and the shape of each product. For example, Cornish Pasties always have to have the crimping on the side and never along the top of the pasty.
There are currently 74 of these protected food names in the UK which are legally recognised by the EU. Some of these GIs are mass market products such as Cornish Pasties, Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese, and Scotch Whisky. Other GIs are heritage products (e.g. Shropshire Cheese or Buxton Blue) where the European GI legislation is important in protecting either a single or a handful of small artisan producers.
Our new research considers the benefits of these GIs for producers and in terms of protecting and developing food heritage. Heritage is important here because of its potential for supporting local businesses and local food tourism. For example, Melton Mowbray has a picture of a pork pie on the front of the tourist guide to the town! It also markets itself as the rural capital of food. Our research clearly shows the heritage benefits of GIs in protecting and sustaining heritage food products and also the potential value of these products to local tourism. Robust statistical evidence on the benefits of GIs to producers proves more difficult to develop but based on a small number of GIs there do seem to be some long-term growth benefits for producers.
As the UK leaves the EU the protection products like Pasties and Pies have previously enjoyed through European GI regulations ends, and the government have announced a new ‘Protected Food Names’ or PFN scheme.
Like Brexit, this new system for protecting traditional food products brings both challenges and opportunities. Perhaps the key challenges relate to the need to introduce new regulations and ensure that both producers and consumers understand them. For example, recent survey evidence suggests that only 1:6 UK consumers recognise the EU GI labels and these have been in use for over 30 years! Building awareness of the PFN among UK consumers is going to be an uphill task.
The new PFN system also brings significant opportunities, however. Most significant perhaps is the opportunity to develop a system of protected food names which is more agile and flexible than its EU counterpart. In the EU scheme, for example, it can take 5-8 years (and sometimes more) for a product to get recognised GI status. A new system may mean that we can reduce this time and also cut the costs associated with achieving GI recognition.
This is important as there is the potential for significantly increasing the number of traditional UK food products which are protected by GIs and making a contribution to food tourism. For example, during our research an industry expert suggested that new GIs could be developed for 12-15 heritage cheeses without thinking about other types of products. Enabling producers and producer groups to grasp the opportunities presented by the UK’s new Protected Food Names scheme has the potential to contribute significantly to local development and the government’s levelling-up agenda.
Stephen Roper, Director , ERC
Please note that the views expressed in this blog belong to the individual blogger and do not represent the official view of the
Enterprise Research Centre, its Funders or Advisory Group.