Seven or eight years ago I took part in a marketing brainstorming workshop in the U.S., with nearly 30 people from around the world discussing meat and meat societies’ strategies. I listened to them speak about factors of success: turnover, investments, volumes, supply chain and so on. Then, I took the microphone to discuss the taste and pleasure of meat as a qualitative argument for success. Silence fell on the room. Then, someone asked, “but, you’re French, no?” as if I wasn’t in-line with the rest of the world... 

Since then, each time I focus on cultural differences regarding food and eating, I remember this specific workshop. 

When I read the following communication from the European Commission, I thought again about this workshop. The European Union just issued its evaluation of promotion and information actions for agricultural products, with a focus on taste and quality. Hopefully, the rest of the world will begin to appreciate these aspects of our food (and, of course, of animal nutrition, as we all know about the influence of feed on animal products’ characteristics).

“In the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy), the EU support to promotion and information on agricultural products has been evolving significantly since the early 1980s. From 2000 to 2007, activities were ruled by two distinct regulations, one on the internal market and the other in third countries. Since 2008, one single harmonized regulatory scheme exists (Council Regulation (EC) No 3/2008 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 501/2008). 

The main objective is to improve the image and knowledge of EU agricultural products and their production methods in order to reverse static or declining consumption, expand the demand or open new markets. With a co-financing mechanism (up to 50 percent of EC contribution, at least 20 percent of financial participation from the private sector and the remainder by member states concerned), the support seeks to supplement and have a multiplier effect on national and private actions. 

Promotion actions must be generic and focusing on the intrinsic quality of products. They may cover public relations work, promotion and advertising as well as information campaigns. They are presented in a program submitted by professional trade organizations in response to national calls for proposals. Programs are pre-selected by the member state and final selection is done by the EC. 

Over recent years, a high number of submitted programs (up to 57 percent) were rejected by the European Commission (DG AGRI), mainly for eligibility and quality reasons…EC expenditure for promotion measures increased from minor amounts in 2002 to relatively stable amounts since 2007, between €45m and €50m yearly, the three quarters being dedicated to the internal market and the rest to third countries.

Regarding products and themes, six of them account for 78 percent of all EC expenditure from 2002 to 2010: fruit and vegetables; dairy; meat; European quality schemes (PDO, PGI & TSG); organic products; wines.” 

One can see that those products are mainly not transformed and that animal products are still high on the list. 

The conclusion of this report is the announcement of the creation of a permanent EU exchange platform on information and promotion actions for agricultural products. 

“It would not interfere with the existing decision mechanisms, but would maintain an active community of stakeholders interacting between them, as well as with the competent authorities in member states and the EC: exchanges of views, transfer of know-how and good practices, formulation of proposals and suggestions. Some of its main deliverables could be: a website, workshops, technical documents, catalogs of good practices, lists of FAQs, a helpdesk, etc.”

I’m just happy to be part of an international workshop where someone will point out the evolution of importation of animal products in the EU and say, “but, you’re European, no?”