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02-02-2014, 14:33
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The most recent poll was inspired by Boak and Bailey’s blogpost (http://boakandbailey.com/2014/01/poll-provenance-beer/) about the uncertainty over whether Camden Hells was brewed in London or in Germany. I widened the issue to look at how important knowing the country of origin was for beer in comparison with other consumer products. The results show that this is much more important for beer, wine and cheese than anything else, with frozen meals (maybe surprising in the wake of the horsemeat scandal) and clothing bringing up the rear.
I suspect in a poll directed at a general rather than a beery audience wine would have topped the poll, as in the vast majority of cases the country of origin is a key part of its identity. On the other hand, a substantial proportion of the beer sold in the UK is actually foreign brands brewed here under licence and, as I reported here (http://pubcurmudgeon.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/does-provenance-matter.html), the average drinker of Carlsberg, Stella or San Miguel is well aware that his beer isn’t actually brewed in the country associated with the name, and isn’t really that bothered. The higher you go up the premium scale, though, the more consumers would be unhappy that an ostensibly Belgian or US brand wasn’t actually produced in that country.
This works on several different levels, for example

Expecting a basic standard of honesty about where products come from soconsumers are not being deliberately misled
A badge of authenticity and integrity in the supply chain
Choosing products from a particular country because of specific national characteristicsWanting to favour particular countries and avoid the produce of others for “political” reasons, whether preferring goods from your own country or boycotting those from countries that for whatever reason you don’t like

In the field of beer, while knowing the country of origin is clearly very important for enthusiasts, as I mentioned above the average consumer isn’t really too concerned. Many popular beers simply say “brewed in the EU” on the bottle or can. However, even this audience is much more relaxed about other products. In the wake of the “Peckham Spring” controversy, the low figure for bottled water is perhaps surprising. And how many people actually check the country of origin on clothing labels before making a purchase? It has also been said that, of major car-producing nations, Britain actually has the first genuinely post-nationalistic car market.
The regulations covering food labelling are extremely complex and, looking through my cupboards, while most packaged foodstuffs do seem to show the country of origin, some, such as chocolate bars and a jar of pickle, don’t. That a company has a UK address does not guarantee UK production. The bottle of HP sauce admits to being “made in the Netherlands”, but has that damaged sales? In fact, supermarket own brands seem to do better on this front than branded goods. While I’m not a regular buyer, I recall that supermarket own-brand beers, even bog-standard Tesco Lager, state in which country they are brewed.

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