|Country / Territory:||Italy|
|IP right(s):||Geographical Indications and Appellations of Origin, Trademarks|
|Date of publication:||July 28, 2009|
|Last update:||July 9, 2012|
For over 2000 years, farmers have been cultivating apples in the “Val di Non” valley in northern Italy’s Trento province. Its altitude (between 500 and 1000 meters above sea level) and microclimate make the apples produced there uniquely colorful, crunchy and fragrant.
The valley’s fruit growers use integrated agricultural production techniques aimed at reducing chemical processing and substituting it with natural biological rhythms so as to provide fruit which respects and preserves the environment in the interest both of producers and consumers.
The Val di Non’s unique microclimate - wet in spring and dry in winter - provides ideal conditions for apple growing (Photo: Consorzio Melinda)
At the end of the 1980s, when the fruit growers of the Val di Non realized that the quantity of apples designated as “Val di Non Apples” in the Italian fruit market outnumbered the quantity of apples actually produced there by at least three times, the need for a protected apple brand became apparent.
Hence, the producers decided to come together under a common brand name in order to enable consumers to easily recognize authentic “Val di Non” apples. This undertaking was facilitated by the fact that the fruit growers were mainly small-scale local producers practicing the same production techniques, already organized in agricultural cooperatives with advanced packaging techniques.
The compromise of uniting the valley’s fruit growers under a common name formally materialized with the decision to register “Melinda” as a collective mark. Collective marks are signs which distinguish the geographical origin, material, mode of manufacture or other common characteristics of goods or services of different enterprises using the collective mark.
While the “Melinda®” brand came to be owned by the “Consorzio Melinda” cooperatives association, the policies on management and development of the cooperatives remained in the hands of the fruit growers. The protection of the Melinda trademark, a combination of the Italian words “mela” (apple) and “linda” (clean), was subsequently extended globally via a Madrid system trademark registration.
The first sign chosen as a trademark was a bee designed by hand. Noting that the market received their products very well, the Consortium mandated London-based “Minale Tattersfield and Partners”, a well-known design agency, to create the logo which is still being used today.
To qualify for collective mark protection, the fruits produced by the members of the “Consorzio Melinda” must conform to certain quality and aesthetic criteria which differentiate the fruits with the Melinda label. Conscious of the need to increase the homogeneity of the quality of Melinda products, the Consortium decided to exclusively produce and market apples. It adopted strict regulation (“product specifications”) ranging from rules governing producers and growing techniques to quality control and packaging, which all members must respect in order to use the Melinda brand on their apples.
To give a further guarantee to consumers, they adhered to the disciplinary production protocol created by A.P.O.T. (the Trentino Fruit and Vegetables Producers Association), and agreed to be subject to the control and the advice of E.S.A.T. (the Trentino Agricultural Development Authority) and of the Agricultural Institute of San Michele all'Adige.
Val di Non apples have been registered as PDO since 2003 (Picture: European Union)
Following European Union (EU) legislation establishing a system for the protection of food names on a geographical basis, the Consortium registered “Val di Non apples” as a “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO), based on the features and characteristics that their production method and particular geographical area confer them (outlined in the EU “production regulations for Val di Non apples”). Besides providing them legal protection against imitation throughout the EU, the PDO also helps raise awareness of “Val di Non apples” throughout Europe.
Melinda apples are always absolute top quality and identified by the distinct historical brand name which guarantees their origin (Picture: Consorzio Melinda)
Customers were immediately well disposed towards Melinda Val di Non apples and quickly recognized the quality and environmental care linked to the integrated production process used by the producers of the valley. Research commissioned by A.P.O.T. revealed that Melinda is the most famous and most often acquired apple brand in Italy.
Today, the 16 cooperatives forming the Melinda Consortium have over 5,000 members. Over the years, Melinda has been able to combine traditional production with modern marketing techniques to better compete with a quality product with a distinctive identity, reputation and image in the domestic and export markets.
Every year, more than 300,000 tons of Val di Non apples are harvested, representing over 60% of apple production from the Trentino region, 10% of Italian production, and 5% of European production. Around a quarter of the production is exported. The financial turnover of the Consortium has grown to nearly US$ 200 million per annum.
More recently, in response to customer demand, Melinda launched two new products: Melinda Juice, a pure apple juice without added water or sugar, and Melinda Snack, consisting of slices of Golden Delicious apples from Val di Non, which have been peeled, cored, sliced and dried.
Registering a collective mark for their apples allowed the Val di Non producers to jointly market their products and enhance product recognition, differentiating them from those of their competitors, while at the same time benefiting from the confidence of the consumers in apples offered under the Melinda trademark. Pooling the different cooperatives’ resources helped them overcome the challenges associated with small size and isolation in the market place.
This case study is based on information from: