The certification of agricultural products is being increasingly discussed in contemporary agribusiness. There are still many uncertainties regarding the value it adds, considering the relatively high costs and efforts related to implementing a certification of international credibility. This contribution aims to discuss the value of certification by comparing the concept with one of the most important concepts of marketing: the brand of products.

Brands have been defined as a name, term, symbol or combination thereof, with the intention of identifying goods or services of one seller and differentiate them from competition. For companies, the main functions of brands are:
– Positive product associations, together with a perception of quality and consequently sales increases;
– Increased product price and a lower price sensitivity;
– Higher interest of the consumer into the communication of the product and thus a higher efficiency of communication;
– Increased shelf space at the point of sales and a preferred access to distributors.

For consumers, brands help the visual identification and differentiation of the product and thus increase the speed of making purchasing decisions. Moreover, brands ensure consistent quality and thus reduce the risk of consumers becoming disappointed with the product performance. Psychologically, brands meet the basic human need for control and safety. When buying a branded product, the consumer knows what he/ she receives, thus brands help taking control over a part of the world. People also use brands to express their identity and self-image. When using a brand they communicate what they need, want or aspire to and thus gain acceptance and access to social groups. In short, brands offer several functions and benefits for the company and for consumers. It seems that most of these are shared with the functions and benefits of crop certification.

Crop certification demonstrates the compliance with certain principles, criteria or rules by a pre-established resource, through audits and other monitoring procedures. It should be understood as an economic tool, based on the market that aims to differentiate products and companies, providing incentives for both consumers and producers. Besides international certifications, certification schemes are often created by governments or by the processing industry. In most cases, agricultural companies use certification for the marketing of agricultural products because the customer requires it. Thus a certification, like a brand, ensures the quality level desired by the consumer. It also generally enables a premium price for the agricultural produce. The communication of a certified product is also easier since, in most cases, certification bodies have already pre-defined a certain message. In the case of the certification Fairtrade, for example, the product has been produced by small-scale family producers who receive a fair price for it. This helps the food industry to benefit from these established communication messages. Also, this way, companies needs to spend less on communication. Finally, certifications help with product distribution because certification bodies often have already established buyers or shelf space with distributors.

For consumers, certification ensures quality and food safety throughout the production process, thus helping in decision making. They also can rely on the certification’s originality since the certification is audited by independent bodies. With the acquisition of a certified product, the consumer demonstrates that he is aware of, and cares, about social, environmental, or cultural issues.

Comparing the functions of certifications to the functions of brands, it thus appears that they are very similar. There are however two important differences between the concepts. Brands represent the characteristics of the product. Certification, on the other hand, deals with the production process. Additionally, a brand is created by someone who can define any of its characteristics. A certification, on the other hand, is accredited by an independent body, which gives it an even higher credibility.

Despite the differences that exist between the concepts of certification and branding, they are comparable with regards to the functions and benefits they offer to sellers and consumers. Certification has to be seen as yet another marketing tool for modern agribusiness. It can be used embedded in a marketing program, alongside a product brand, and thus enhance it. Alternatively, the brand may be based on the sociological, environmental or cultural characteristics of the product, which the certification proves, if that is what most interests the buyer. Thus, the product brand benefits from the certification. Either way it can be concluded that certification does add value to the agricultural product and is therefore a tool that every producer should consider for its production.

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