Open Evidence, in consortium with London School of Economics and BDI Research will conduct a new “Behavioural Study on origin claims on fishery and aquaculture products” for the European Commission (DG MARE). In the context of the upcoming evaluation of the Common Market Organisation (CMO) Regulation, this behavioural study should provide the necessary evidence to assess whether the current framework is still effective or whether there could be a need to refine, re-define and rationalise origin-related information of fishery and aquaculture products (FAPs).

Origin information found on fish products generally refers to one of the following three categories: (i) information on where the product was caught/farmed; (ii) information on where the product was processed; and (iii) claims that associate the origin of the product with taste/quality. Very often, however, as surveyed in the pilot project, claims come only in the form of a flag (e.g. Danish flag) or a statement (e.g. ‘Irish’ or ‘Product of Italy’). Such information exploits the preference biases for local/national products that EU consumers show, but does little to inform consumers adequately on the origin/provenance of the product they are buying. The global nature of the fishery supply chain, coupled with the complex regulatory context, leaves a significant margin of manoeuvre in terms of what type of origin information can be displayed on the product.

This study should shed light on the values EU consumers associate with origin, assess which type of origin-related information would provide them with the knowledge that they need/expect to make informed purchasing decisions and likewise, if some of the currently available information should be eliminated/modified due to its irrelevance, its ambiguity or its misleading nature. Furthermore, it should also assess whether the voluntary information that operators provide to consumers actually meets their needs, or whether this matching is only presumed on the basis of a mutual tacit understanding of what origin means. Lastly, the study should also analyse the extent to which the information provided in Regulation (EU) No 1379/2013 is understandable to the consumer and the meanings that it conveys.

In pursuit of these objectives, the study will combine different quantitative and qualitative research methods, using secondary sources and gathering primary data through fieldwork. The methods envisaged for this study include: (i) literature review and online desk review to collect relevant evidence on the different factors that affect consumer behaviour; (ii) qualitative research in the form of focus groups and mystery shopping to gather qualitative insights on the level of understanding and awareness of such information by the consumers; (iii) incentivised survey to measure the level of consumers’ understanding of both mandatory and voluntary information; (iv) discrete choice experiment to assess consumers’ preferences for different kinds of origin-related information and claims and (v) simulated purchase experiment to be conducted in a mock supermarket to validate the results of both the survey and of the discrete choice experiments, and to increase external validity of results. Based on the results of these tasks, the study will provide policy recommendations and evidence to DG MARE so that they may assess whether there is a need to refine and re-define the sections on FAPs origin-related information present in the CMO Regulation.