Specific quality: a voluntary approach with a view to differentiating a product

Food quality is a vast concept that is related to consumers' needs or expectations and can refer to various elements, both objective and subjective, such as food safety, nutritional quality, environmental preservation, geographical origin, local traditions, ethical and social quality, animal welfare, etc.

A helpful way of classifying these various types of quality is based on consideration of generic quality and specific quality:

  • Generic quality corresponds to a minimum standard that a product must meet if it is to be placed on the market. Generic quality therefore has a normative character, inasmuch as governments have to ensure consumers’ safety, health and information as part of their responsibility for protecting the general welfare.
  • Specific quality corresponds to a supplementary level of quality and is distinguished from generic quality by its voluntary nature and its creation of added value. A specific-quality product possesses characteristics that may be linked to its composition, production or processing method or marketing, and thus allow its differentiation. These characteristics are often a response to growing social expectations, such as environmental conservation, fairer trade, optimization of a heritage or the link to geographical origin.