Feta Cheese - what's in a name?

New Zealand’s recent Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union saw the EU submit a list of about 2000 products to New Zealand that have what are known as geographical indications. Geographical indications (GIs) are usually names that identify that a product comes from a particular area. They indicate that a product has a given quality, reputation or other characteristic that is strongly associated to that area. For example, “Central Otago” is registered as a wine GI in New Zealand. It identifies wine that is made from grapes grown in Central Otago and, as a result, has particular characteristics that distinguish them from wines made from grapes from other regions.

The recent FTA has implications for New Zealand’s specialist cheese producers. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) advise that cheese producers in New Zealand will have to stop using the name Feta within nine years of the FTA coming into force. Local Gorgonzola producers face the same restriction, but within five years of the FTA being in place. Kiwi cheese producers of Parmesan and Gruyère are able to continue using the names if products have been produced for five or more years before the FTA begins. Other names like Mozzarella, Brie, Camembert and Gouda can continue to be used without restrictions.

But it’s not just cheese that’s affected. Some historic wine names such as Port and Sherry for example, will also need to be phased out in New Zealand over time.

Not just a name change

GI’s have implications that extend beyond just changing a product’s name. In context of GS1 global standards, changing a product’s name on packaging (e.g., from Feta Cheese to Feta Style or Wheta) will require both a new barcode number (GTIN) and barcode on the packaging.

With a generous lead time, producers can make changes with minimal disruption and it’s here where GS1 can help producers and exporters.

GS1’s easy-to-use GTIN Management Decision-Tool is a guide for producers and brand owners to use when changes to an existing product are required because of a regulatory change, for example. A barcode change is required when there is a material change to an existing product and in the case of Feta, changing or adapting the name to something else is an example of this.