The official quality marks PDO and PGI are reserved for traditional products with regional rooting. After registration with the Federal Office for Agriculture the protected designation can be used exclusively for products that fulfill the origin, processing and quality requirements stipulated in the specifications. Independent certification bodies carry out individual inspections to verify their criteria compliance .
The protected designation of origin (PDO/AOP, Appellation d’Origine Protégée) provides the guarantee that the quality products are produced, processed and prepared in the area of origin. For example, the milk used to manufacture a particular cheese comes from a clearly defined region and the cheese will be processed and cared for there until it has reached ripeness.
The protected geographical indication (PGI), also serves to distinguish tradition and typical specialities from a clearly defined area. A product must have been either manufactured, processed or prepared in the area of origin.
For example, meat intended for the manufacture of an IGP sausage can also come from animals which were bred outside the region.
Both PDO and PGI products bear the name of the region from which they originate in their designation. It is therefore important that the designation is only used for products which meet the following three requirements :
Origin and terroir
„Origin“ and „Terroir“ are fundamental terms in the PDO and PGI context.
The origin (or the source) of the product is guaranteed. The terroir gives the PDO and PGI their uniqueness (typicality).
The products are linked to the region from which they have their name.
Link to Terroir and Tradition
Through the characteristics and traditions of the region, the products are also influenced by the terroir.
Traditional production methods
The PDO and PGI products are produced according to traditional manufacture methods which guarantee the influence of the terroir on the product.
Only when a product meets these three requirements, it can benefit from the PDO or PGI protection.
The PDO and the PGI are reserved for products originating from a traditional region of production. The link between the product and the terroir is more distinct in the case of PDO as all manufacture stages must take place within the area. In the case of IGP, only one stage has to take place within the area (for example the processing of the raw material).
PDO as well as PGI are two official quality marks which consumers can rely on.
A guarantee of origin
In the centre of the labeling policies practised in more and more European countries for agricultural products and food is the reference to the origin (source). This policy gained acceptance at the beginning, especially in South Europe and in France. Meanwhile, however, also the other European countries are showing increasing interest in the designation of authentic regional products having a link to their terroir. The registration of protected designations of origin and geographical indications in the case of agricultural products and food were established by law in the European Union by the Council Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92 of 14 July 1992. The creation of a legal basis followed in Switzerland with the PDO/PGI Decree of 28th May 1997.
PDO and PGI are not the only labels for products having a link to the region of origin. In addition to these, numerous regional labels or countrywide marks of origin exist. PDO and PGI are, however, the only official and state regulated marks of origin.
The importance of origin for consumers
A protected designation of origin or geographical indication is an exclusive characteristic as it cannot be imitated. It represents an important purchase argument to the consumers. In order to give a sense to the designation of origin it also has to correspond to a consumer need.
Need for orientation, seasonal and regional rooting
The origin (the source) offers an orientation aid which provides a kind of security, an identity, a link to our ancestors. Authentic products with a guaranteed origin remain anchors in an increasingly globalised world.
Need for security
Scandals in the food sector have startled the consumers. The demands on what is on your plate have increased. The consumers want to feel the great confidence which products with a known origin can offer.
The need to be different
When buying products with a designation of origin the consumer sets an example against trivialised standard and mass products, pasteurizing and hygiene mania. The uniqueness brings the consumer on the taste. By consuming certain products, he sets himself apart from the uniformity, living out his individuality.
The necessity to define the origin
The origin of a product should not limit itself to its geographical origin but also contain manufacture regulations which take the link between the product and the terroir, as well as traditional Know-how into account.
The Terroir and its particular characteristics
Each PDO or PGI product must prove its link to the terroir. The PDO and PGI have to present specific characteristics marked by their geographical origin. How can the link to the terroir be explained? How does it appear?
The terroir is not determined only by climatic, topographic and agricultural influences, but also by the people, their know-how and traditions. The totality of these natural and human influences gives the product its character, quality and uniqueness. Passed on from one generation to the next they give to a PDO or a PGI its importance for the cultural heritage and in the history of a region.
When the historical and cultural background of a product is known, one also understands why it belongs to a specific area. If meat in Wallis is dried instead of smoked, it is due to the particular wind which blows through the Wallis valleys and has made people use this technique. When a big cheese loaf is made this can be traced back to the fact that the cow herders, from the very beginning, always have processed the milk from several herds. The reason why almost all PGI sausages are produced from pork resides in the fact the „Schotte“ from the cheese dairies was used in the pig feed.
If you keep the natural and social circumstances in mind which have contributed to the creation of the PDO or PGI products, you become aware of their value. To define the specifications for a PDO or PGI product means to maintain its uniqueness and pass on the cultural heritage of our ancestors.