If there’s one element of Spanish gastronomy that getting attention around the world, it’s ham. The Spanish Serrano Ham Foundation, comprising some 100 ham-producing industries in 13 regions, has a clear objective: to promote, raise awareness about, and protect the "Serrano Ham" name, safeguarded at European Union level as a Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) product. The Foundation plays a vital role in its defense, as 33 of the top 45 ham-producing companies (in volume terms) are members.
Companies in the Foundation identify their products with a back label which ensures consumers that the Serrano hams comply with control and quality requirements; the labels also serve as a link and a tool for marketing producers' hams.
The back label not only confirms that the product complies with all TSG quality requirements, but also guarantees that it has undergone the minimum curing period and has been verified by independent third parties.
Serrano hams with the Foundation’s back label have a two-pronged guarantee: they comply with TSG requirements as well as with the association’s own controls, which also confirms the curing periods.
Flavors throughout Europe
Companies in the Foundation are involved in intense promotional activities beyond Spain’s borders with a view to raising awareness about the quality and control checks applied to their products. The Foundation distributes information about the nutritional properties of Serrano ham (a source of proteins, vitamins and minerals with an acceptable fat content), which is not only delicious, but is also an ideal component of a balanced diet.
Foundation members’ hams are increasing their presence outside Spain by participating in leading sector fairs in the European Union and beyond. The companies also organize informative and gastronomic events and showrooms aimed at the press and the distribution and catering segments in coordination with the Spanish Meat Export Office (OECE) and its promotion program.
An ambitious three-year campaign is also under way in Poland, Germany and Denmark entitled “Original Flavors: The Mediterranean Essence”, subsidized by Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment together with the European Commission. It commenced in 2011, and also spotlights extra virgin olive oil from Baena and wines from Ribero del Duero.
Full steam ahead: Serrano ham with a PGI
Serrano ham is possibly the most representative element of Spanish culture and culinary tradition. As such, more than 13 years ago (in 1999), Spain’s meat sector sought to register it as a product with distinct quality in the European Union under the Traditional Specialty Guaranteed scheme with the name “Serrano Ham”.
But the Foundation wants to go even further. The association believes that the TSG scheme has certain defects which impede its management and use, unlike other schemes, such as PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographic Indication), which offer greater scope for protecting and managing labels while also safeguarding and distinguishing a specific geographic area.
One of TSG’s shortcomings is that there is no official coordinating body similar to a regulatory council—an entity that can undertake to protect, defend, improve, promote and raise awareness about the product—which PGIs and PDOs do have. In view of this, Spain’s ham sector decided to create the Serrano Ham Foundation in 2000.
Later, the Foundation put the wheels in motion to change the designation for Serrano ham. The idea is to modify the import sought by the brand (from TSG, which highlights tradition, to PGI, which defends the link to a geographical area) and harness the benefits provided under the PGI with respect to the TSG.
As an alternative to shifting Serrano ham from TSG to PGI, efforts have commenced to find a way to protect Spanish Serrano ham and delimit the production area. A “Collective EU brand” is one option, which would require compliance with the Serrano ham TSG requirements and which would guarantee that the product is from Spain. This brand would need its own logotype to highlight the importance of the product’s Spanish provenance. The sector’s inquiry on this matter has been submitted to the EU’s Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market.