Can Origin Labels Re-Shape Relationships Along International Supply Chains? The Case of Café de Colombia

"Origin labels, more specifically Geographical Indications (GIs), allow organised producers to define quality standards and defend their food products’ reputation while highlighting their geographical origin and value to consumers. Café de Colombia was the first non-European food product registered as Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) under EU legislation (510/2006, followed by 1151/2012). This paper aims to identify the dynamics of collective efforts and the rules of the game developed by coffee growers to protect the collective intellectual property right. Our guiding research questions are: i) to what extent can the Ostrom’s design principles explain effective collective action for GI registration and implementation? and ii) can collective action for GIs re-shape relations between supply chain actors and support producers in gaining control over origin products? We collected data using semi-structured interviews and document analysis, which we then processed in a qualitative text analysis. Results show that the principles are very helpful for understanding the internal collective action of coffee growers and also clearly show the challenges in the interaction with industrial coffee processors (e.g. international roasters, brand owners). A pure focus on the producers’ collective action for establishing and managing the origin protection does not give a full picture, since green coffee beans are roasted and commercialised abroad. The GI has already re-shaped the relationships along the supply chains, as international roasters sign the producers’ rules governing the PGI use. The commercial GI impact however, will depend on consumers’ willingness to appreciate and pay extra for high quality origin coffee as well as the readiness of international roasters or brand owners to emphasise on origin coffee, in addition to their brands of blended coffee."
coffee, institutional analysis, collectives