British Goods

Don't Look for the E.U. Label

Stilton cheeses and other authentic British products are protected against copycats in part by an E.U. program that designates unique goods.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    If Britain leaves the European Union, more than 100 makers of uniquely British products could lose E.U. copyright protection — which could adversely affect their sales abroad.

  • Facts


    • More than 100 British companies have had their products — such as Welsh lamb, Plymouth Gin or Anglesey salt, certified as “unique” by the European Union, a designation that affords an extra level of copyright protection.
    • Should Britain leave the E.U., these products would likely be forced to stop using the E.U. designation, perhaps adversely affecting their sales.
    • Some companies that use the E.U. label fear the loss of the copyright protection; others claim they will be able to sell equally as effectively with support from the British trade organization.
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There is a lot at stake for Alison Lea-Wilson of Halen Môn when British voters go to the polls next Thursday. If Britain leaves the European Union, her business, a sea salt manufacturer in Brynsiencyn, a town on the northern coast of Wales, may lose its coveted status as a “Protected Designation of Origin’’ under European Union law.

Halen Môn uses the E.U. designation to sell packets of its salt mined from seawater on the island of Anglesey off the coast of northwest Wales.

“It is the legal E.U. recognition of the unique qualities of our sea salt,” Ms. Lea-Wilson told Handelsblatt Global Edition in an interview. Her 17-year-old firm exports 34 percent of its sales abroad, of which half – roughly 1.2 million pounds (€1.X million) each year.

The salt sold by Halen Môn is unique because it is derived from the briny, pure waters around Anglesey, water so pure that it is a breeding ground for tiny seahorses, which cannot survive the slightest pollution.

Since winning the E.U. designation in 2014, Halen Môn has exploited the benefits of the special product label to sell its salt through up-market emporiums such as Marks and Spencers, Waitrose and Harvey Nichols to gain a foothold against much bigger rivals such as Kali + Salz in Germany. Ms. Lea-Wilson’s firm is not the only one in Britain that would lose their E.U. status if Britain leaves the European Union.

There are others such as Orkney beef, Welsh lamb, Stilton cheese, Cornish clotted cream, Kentish ale and Kentish strong ale, and of course, Shetland wool and Scotch whiskey. Like Halen Môn, the British producers use the E.U. label and E.U. copyright law to protect their wares in a global market against illegal copycats.

What makes Ms. Lea-Wilson fairly unique in Britain is that she is one of the few who is seriously concerned about losing the E.U. status.

Other British firms whose products display the E.U. label claim they would not be seriously affected if Britain decides to leave the 28-nation bloc. Take celery grown in Fenland, a district 100 miles (160 kilometers) northeast of London, which has used the E.U. label since 2013.

“What would happen to the PGI status of Fenland? The simple answer I believe is nothing,” Anthony Gardiner, the marketing director at Fenland Celery, told Handelsblatt Global Edition.

Fenland successfully sold its celery in Britain before and after it received the E.U. protection three years ago, he said, which has generate about 150,000 pounds in sales per year.

In the European Union, three labels protect the reputation and geographical claims of regional food and drink producers — the protected designation of origin, the protected geographical indication and the traditional specialities guarantee.

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