Czech goods receiving excellent marks

Every country wants its citizens to buy domestic products as much as possible, and the Czech Republic is no exception. In the past few years, it's taken a more active approach in promoting the wares of Czech food producers through the work of the State Agriculture Intervention Fund. The fund created the Klasa mark in 2003 as a stamp of approval for Czech goods that meet several conditions, and it seems that more consumers are now taking notice.

The State Agriculture Intervention Fund released statistics recently showing the marketing campaign around its Klasa mark that started in the middle of last year is starting to bear fruit, and that the mark is beginning to mean a sign of quality for many shoppers. Before the campaign started, only six percent of its target group—that is women between the ages of 20 and 55—recognized the Klasa mark; today more than 36 percent of women know of it, according to the fund's research.

"I certainly prefer products with this Klasa mark because it means quality and the products are quality."

The Klasa mark—which means class in Czech and the letter A represents a mark of excellence—was created in 2003. Since that time, 852 products from 143 producers have received the stamp. Sausages, cheese, yogurt and bread are among the most common products.

To receive the mark, goods must meet a number of requirements: Chief among them is that it has to be 100 percent produced in the country, and, depending on the product, 40 to 90 percent of the ingredients must be Czech-sourced. The product should also adhere to safety standards, and the producer must be certified.

These guidelines are creating the desired effect, too. According to the fund's research, some 84 percent of women take the Klasa mark to mean quality, which, besides price, is a top demand among Czech shoppers. Another 60 percent said they will give preference to products with the mark in the future.

While several shoppers don't yet recognize the Klasa stamp, many already do look for it among their grocery aisles:

"It's the best quality of Czech products. I know it's the best, and the best is good."

"In case I have two products which I don't know, and one of them has this mark Klasa, I would choose that one. Because if I don't know that product or that mark, I would decide for the one with this picture or writing Klasa, because it might be better."

Drawing from EU money, the fund last year spent 180 million crowns on marketing activities, including billboards, promotions in retail shops, and presenting at exhibitions in the Czech Republic and abroad. This year they have a 238 million crown marketing budget, and plan to include more advertisements on television, in newspapers and magazines, and in outdoor spots. The goal now, says the Fund's spokeswoman Jitka Slukova, is to orientate shoppers with quality Czech products and provide marketing support to domestic producers who don't usually have big ad budgets.

However, the fund doesn't want to stop there and is also trying to raise Czech products' profile abroad, as Ms Slukova explains:

"Our target group is mainly women, from a variety of ages, who shop for their family. But we are not only aiming for Czech consumers. Therefore we are also heading out to all possible exhibitions abroad. We are organizing promotional activities at foreign embassies; we publish catalogs of Czech producers in several languages to help them reach the European market. We have also enlisted the help of well-know Czech sports figures who represent us abroad. For example, Katerina Neumannova promotes the Klasa mark.

"Billboards found at border areas are also multilingual and offer Czech products. At the airport, we now have two shops both in the old and new terminals, which exclusively sell Czech products, and promote the Klasa mark and explain what it means and the level of its quality to foreign visitors."