Country of origin
Country of origin, represents the country or countries of manufacture, production, design, or brand origin where an article or product comes from. For multinational brands, COO may include multiple countries within the value-creation process.
There are differing rules of origin under various national laws and international treaties. Country of origin labelling is also known as place-based branding, the made-in image or the "nationality bias." In some regions or industries, country of origin labelling may adopt unique local terms such as terroir used to describe wine appellations based on the specific region where grapes are grown and wine manufactured.
Place-based branding has a very ancient history. Archaeological evidence points to packaging specifying the place of manufacture dating back to some 4,000 years ago. Over time, informal labels evolved into formal, often regulated labels providing consumers with information about product quality, manufacturer name and place of origin.
DefinitionCountry of origin of a product can have several possible definitions. It can refer to:
History of country-of-origin labellingThe inclusion of place of origin on manufactured goods has an ancient history. In antiquity, informal branding which included details such as the name of manufacturer and place of origin were used by consumers as important clues as to product quality. David Wengrow has found archaeological evidence of brands, which often included origin of manufacture, dating to around 4,000 years ago. Producers began by attaching simple stone seals to products which, over time, were transformed into clay seals bearing impressed images, often associated with the producer's personal identity thus providing information about the product and its quality. For instance, an object found in a royal burial tomb in Abydos and dating to around 3,000 B.C.E., carries brand elements that would be very familiar to modern consumers. Inscriptions on the surface denote a specific place of manufacture, "finest oil of Tjehenu," a region in modern-day Libya.
In China, place-names appear to have developed independently during the Han Dynasty ; brand names and place names were relatively commonplace on goods. Eckhardt and Bengtsson have argued that in the absence of a capitalist system, branding was connected to social systems and cultural contexts; that brand development was a consumer-initiated activity rather than the manufacturer-push normally associated with Western brand management practices.
Diana Twede has shown that amphorae used in Mediterranean trade between 1500 and 500 BCE exhibited a wide variety of shapes and markings, which provided information for purchasers during exchange. Systematic use of stamped labels dates appears to date from around the fourth century BCE. In a largely pre-literate society, the shape of the amphora and its pictorial markings functioned as a brand, conveying information about the contents, region of origin and even the identity of the producer which were understood to function as signs of product quality.
The Romans preferred to purchase goods from specific places, such as oysters from Londinium and cinnamon from a specific mountain in Arabia, and these place-based preferences stimulated trade throughout Europe and the Middle East. In Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum, archaeological evidence also points to evidence of branding and labelling in relatively common use. Wine jars, for example, were stamped with names, such as "Lassius" and "L. Eumachius;" probably references to the name of the producer. Carbonized loaves of bread, found at Herculaneum, indicate that some bakers stamped their bread with the producer's name.
Umbricius Scauras, a manufacturer of fish sauce in Pompeii c. 35 C.E., was branding his amphora which travelled across the entire Mediterranean. Mosaic patterns in the atrium of his house were decorated with images of amphora bearing his personal brand and quality claims. The mosaic comprises four different amphora, one at each corner of the atrium, and bearing labels as follows:
Scauras' fish sauce was known to be of very high quality across the Mediterranean and its reputation travelled as far away as modern France.
During the Medieval period in Europe, numerous market towns sprang up and competition between them intensified. In response to competitive pressures, towns began investing in developing a reputation for quality produce, efficient market regulation and good amenities for visitors. By the thirteenth century, English counties with important textile industries were investing in purpose built halls for the sale of cloth. London's Blackwell Hall became a centre for cloth, Bristol became associated with a particular type of cloth known as Bristol red, Stroud was known for producing fine woollen cloth, the town of Worsted became synonymous with a type of yarn; Banbury and Essex were strongly associated with cheeses. Casson and Lee have argued that the chartered markets of England and Europe in medieval times were using the regional market's reputation as a sign of produce quality and that this acted as an early form of branding.
Following the European age of expansion, goods were imported from afar. Marco Polo, for example, wrote about silk from China and spices from India. Consumers began to associate specific countries with merchandise - calico cloth from India, porcelain, silk and tea from China, spices from India and South-East Asia and tobacco, sugar, rum and coffee from the New World.
By the late 19th century, European countries began introducing country of origin labelling legislation. In the 20th century, as markets became more global and trade barriers removed, consumers had access to a broader range of goods from almost anywhere in the world. Country of origin is an important consideration in purchase decision-making.
Effects on consumersThe effects of country of origin labeling on consumer purchasing have been extensively studied. The country of origin effect is also known as the "made-in image" and the "nationality bias."
Research shows that consumers' broad general perceptions of a country, including of its national characteristics, economic and political background, history, traditions, and representative products, combine to create an overall image or stereotype that is then attached to the products of that country or countries, as occurs for multinational brands.
For example, a global survey carried out by Nielsen, reported that Country of origin image has a significant influence on consumer perceptions and behaviours, and in situations in which additional information is unavailable or difficult to get can be the sole determinant of whether or not someone buys a product. Its effect is strongest on consumers who do not know much about the product or product type, and weakest on consumers who are well-informed. Sensitivity to country of origin varies by product category. It is strongest for durable goods and luxury goods and weakest for "low involvement" product categories such as shampoo and candy. In various studies it has also been proven that the Country-of-Origin Effect also applies to services.
Several studies have shown that consumers tend to have a relative preference to products from their own country or may have a relative preference for or aversion against products that originate from certain countries.
Labelling requirementsThe requirements for Country of Origin markings are complicated by the various designations which may be required such as "Made in X", "Product of X", "Manufactured in X" etc. They also vary by country of import and export. For example:
- For imports to the United Kingdom, there is a voluntary code for Food. Other products are not subject to labelling requirements, but misleading labelling can result in prosecution under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968.
- Food exported to the United Arab Emirates must include Country of Origin
The Textile Fiber Products Identification Act and Wool Products Labeling Act require a Made in USA label on clothing and other textile or wool household products if the final product is manufactured in the U.S. of fabric that is manufactured in the U.S., regardless of where materials earlier in the manufacturing process came from. Textile products that are imported must be labeled as required by the Customs Service. A textile or wool product partially manufactured in the U.S. and partially manufactured in another country must be labeled to show both foreign and domestic processing.
On a garment with a neck, the country of origin must be disclosed on the front of a label attached to the inside center of the neck, either midway between the shoulder seams or very near another label attached to the inside center of the neck. On a garment without a neck and on other kinds of textile products, the country of origin must appear on a conspicuous and readily accessible label on the inside or outside of the product.
Catalogs and other mail order promotional materials for textile and wool products, including those disseminated on the Internet, must disclose whether a product is made in the U.S., imported, or both.
The Fur Products Labeling Act requires the country of origin of imported furs to be disclosed on all labels and in all advertising.
The American Automobile Labeling Act requires that each automobile manufactured on or after October 1, 1994, for sale in the U.S. bear a label disclosing where the car was assembled, the percentage of equipment that originated in the U.S. and Canada, and the country of origin of the engine and transmission. Any representation that a car marketer makes that is required by the AALA is exempt from the Commission’s policy. When a company makes claims in advertising or promotional materials that go beyond the AALA requirements, it will be held to the Commission’s standard.
The Buy American Act requires that a product be manufactured in the U.S. of more than 50 percent U.S. parts to be considered Made in USA for government procurement purposes. For more information, review the Buy American Act at 41 U.S.C. §§ 10a-10c, the Federal Acquisition Regulations at 48 C.F.R. Part 25, and the Trade Agreements Act at 19 U.S.C. §§ 2501-2582.
The Lanham Act gives any person who is damaged by a false designation of origin the right to sue the party making the false claim.
COO marketingCompanies may indicate the origin of their products with a number of different marketing strategies:
- Use of the phrase "Made in..."
- Use of quality and origin labels
- COO embedded in the company name
- Typical COO words embedded in the company name
- Use of the COO language
- Use of famous or stereotypical people from the COO
- Use of COO flags and symbols
- Use of typical landscapes or famous buildings from the COO
Today, many products are an outcome of a large number of parts and pieces that come from many different countries, and that may then be assembled together in a third country. In these cases, it's hard to know exactly what is the country of origin, and different rules apply as to how to determine their "correct" country of origin. Generally, articles only change their country of origin if the work or material added to an article in the second country constitutes a substantial transformation, or, the article changes its name, tariff code, character or use. Value added in the second country may also be an issue.
In principle, the substantial transformation of a product is intended as a change in the harmonized system coding. For example, a rough commodity sold from country A to country B, than subjected of a transformation in country B, which sells the final processed commodity to a country C is considered a sufficient step to label the end product made in B.