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Abstract

Product labeling has gained considerable attention recently, as a means to both provide product-specific information and reduce quality uncertainty faced by consumers, as well as from a regulatory point of view. This article focuses on whether and to what extent origin, quality and traceability labeling is an appropriate way to differentiate food products. The focus is on fresh meat and fresh fish, two mainly generic food product categories with a high degree of credence character. Insights into the potential for market differentiation through origin, quality and traceability labeling are provided and discussed using primary data collected during the period 2000-2005 by means of four consumer surveys. In general, direct indications of quality, including mandatory information cues such as best-before dates and species names, but also including quality marks, are found to be more appealing to consumers in general than origin labeling, and the latter more than traceability. The different studies yield the conclusion that the market differentiation potential of origin and quality labeling pertains mainly to a product’s healthiness appeal, and this potential seems stronger for meat than for fish. The differentiation potential of traceability per se is rather limited. Instead, traceability is needed as the regulatory and logistic backbone for providing guarantees related to origin and quality.

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