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Willingness to pay for “taste of Europe”: geographical origin labeling controversy in China

Chenguang Li (School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)
Junfei Bai (China Agricultural University, Beijing, China)
Zhifeng Gao (Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA)
Jiangyuan Fu (School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 7 August 2017




Continuing economic growth in emerging markets offers large market opportunities to producers and marketers worldwide; however, market failures due to asymmetric information are often seen when high-quality products enter these “new markets” where recognition rates among consumers are low. The use of “geographical origin” labels as quality signals to overcome asymmetric information problem plays an important role. The purpose of this paper is to compare consumers’ perception and willingness to pay (WTP) for different levels of geographic origin labels to provide insights to the strategic use of origin labels in emerging markets.


A consumer survey on geographic labeling for imported dairy products was carried out in Beijing, China in May 2015. Under the “products of European Union (EU)” range, the authors used “product of Ireland” as a case study for the country-specific origin label. Information on consumer demographic, dairy consumption, safety perceptions, knowledge on Ireland and Irish products, as well as WTP for different geographic labeling and product attributes were collected from 307 face-to-face interviews. WTP was elicited using double-bounded contingent valuation method, and estimated with maximum log-likelihood function.


The authors found that consumers are willing to pay premium prices for both of these geographical origin indicators, but the EU label had slightly higher WTP results. However, the controversial situation is that although the EU label has a better chance than the country-specific label in signaling premium quality to Chinese consumers, EU labeling at its best signals an average quality across the EU counties. For premium products with above average quality, using generic EU labeling has a potential drawback to the establishment of product differentiation.


This study is the first to evaluate Chinese consumers’ WTP for EU generic origin label for dairy products in comparison to country-specific origin label. Findings of the study have immediate policy and marketing implications in emerging markets.



The authors want to thank for the joint funding support from Science Foundation Ireland International Strategic Cooperation Award (SFI-ISCA) Program, the Beijing Social Science Foundation (15JGA011), and National Natural Science Foundation of China (71273009). The authors are grateful for Jiangyuan Fu, Shixian Zhai and Ming Yuan for their contribution in data collection for this study.


Li, C., Bai, J., Gao, Z. and Fu, J. (2017), "Willingness to pay for “taste of Europe”: geographical origin labeling controversy in China", British Food Journal, Vol. 119 No. 8, pp. 1897-1914.



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