When is something from Switzerland officially considered Swiss?

What does it take for Switzerland’s most popular exports, such as watches, chocolate, and cheese, to be officially branded “Swiss”? Do they even need to be produced in Switzerland.

When is something from Switzerland officially considered Swiss?
When is something officially Swiss? Photo by Nadine Marfurt on Unsplash

It is not secret: Swiss-made sells. According to Switzerland’s SME Portal for small and medium-sized enterprises, several studies have shown that slapping a “Made in Switzerland” label on any given product can represent as much as 20 percent of its sale price when compared to similar products from other origin countries. For luxury goods, the Swiss-made tag can represent up to 50 percent of the sale price.

Naturally, with product sales featuring Swiss branding soaring sky high, Switzerland has set clear criteria to protect the worth of its Swiss-made label as well as the logo featuring the white cross against a red background for products manufactured within its borders.

In the summer of 2013, the Swiss parliament passed a new “Swissness” legislation with the aim of ensuring the added value of the “Swiss” brand on a global scale long term and in doing so, protecting it from misuse.

The “Swissness” legislation defines the various requirements that goods and services must meet in order to be labelled as “Swiss” before hitting the shelves. It was approved by the Federal Council on September 2nd 2015 and came into effect on January 1st 2017.

The companies whose products and services meet these criteria may use the Swiss indication of origin voluntarily and without a permit.

How much ‘Swissness’ is required?

The amount of “Swissness” that is required in each product for it to be worthy of the “Swiss” trademark varies depending on the category of the item.

The following conditions now need to be met for a product or service to be considered Swiss:

  • Natural products: Origin is defined according to a single variable criterion depending on the product (e.g., the place of harvest for plant products).
  • Foodstuffs: At least 80 percent of the raw materials used must come from Switzerland, while 100 percent of milk and diary products must originate in Switzerland, including the processing of cheese.
  • Other products, such as industrial products. At least 60 percent of the cost price (including R&D costs) must be realised in Switzerland, including the manufacturing stage which confers on the product its essential characteristics. However, there is an exception: under certain conditions, it is possible to exclude raw materials and semi-finished products which do not exist in Switzerland.
  • Services. Not only must the company’s registered office Switzerland-based but it must also be run from Switzerland.

Rules tighter around food

The rules are somewhat stricter when it comes to labelling quality agricultural products and their processed products as Swiss.

In order to be labelled as mountain products, such as mountain cheese, the raw materials must both come and be processed in the mountain region, which includes all neighbouring communities. If the product is processed outside the mountain region, only the origin of the resources may be named (e.g., yogurt made from mountain milk).

There are also tighter rules around cheese in which case both the milk production and cheesemaking must occur in the mountain area.

For alpine products (e.g., alpine herbs), the place of manufacturing and production is limited to the summer grazing pastures which include the areas traditionally used for alpine farming.

All products that claim to be produced and manufactured in the mountains and alps must be checked by an accredited certification body according to this regulation to ensure that is the case.

The only exceptions within foodstuffs occur for natural products which cannot be products in Switzerland, such as cacao, due to natural conditions, or which are simply unavailable in sufficient quantity.

Customs union areas

When it comes to agriculture, Switzerland has special regulations for customs union areas (Zollanschlussgebiet) which apply Swiss laws and pursue quality management comparable to that in Switzerland. Some of the land based across its borders is even cultivated by Swiss farmers.

The places which are considered equal to Switzerland are the Principality of Liechtenstein, Büsingen in Germany, Pays de Gex and Haute-Savoie in France, as well as Swiss farms in some foreign border zones.

In Geneva, for instance, products from farms on French territory can be sold in Switzerland as a Swiss product. The logic is simple: Swiss cows munching on French grass still produce Swiss milk – so long as we ignore the French “ingredients”.

Companies that don’t comply

Businesses that do not meet the criteria set out by the “Swissness” legislation can opt to develop some product stages in Switzerland to give their products a sale boost. For instance, if a sausage is smoked in Switzerland, the product can make a mention of that (“Smoked in Switzerland”), or if a piece of furniture is refurbished in Switzerland it can state so. However, in neither case can the Swiss cross be affixed to the product.

Special bans on Swiss cross

There are some additional bans when it comes to making use of the Confederation coats of arms (which are made up of a Swiss cross set inside a triangular escutcheon). The use of the Confederation coats of arms is reserved for public authorities exclusively. Any private company wishing to use the Swiss cross label would have to obtain a special authorisation granting it permission – but this is very rare.

Furthermore, companies mustn’t use the Swiss cross to suggest any kind of relation with the Confederation.

The Swiss cross can also no longer adorn a number of items and services where it might be mistaken for the Red Cross (such as in the medical sector).

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‘Il fait bon chaud’: Geneva reveals how different French is in Switzerland

It is a well-known fact that the Swiss German language is totally different from ‘regular’ German. But what about the French spoken in Switzerland?

'Il fait bon chaud': Geneva reveals how different French is in Switzerland

Overall , the language of the Suisse Romande (the French part of Switzerland) is pretty similar to the one spoken in France.

In any case, it is not so different that the Swiss and the French don’t understand each other (so this can’t be the reason why the two sometimes look down on one other.)

READ ALSO: How the Swiss see their French neighbours — and vice versa

Here are some examples.

During the Francophone Week, which was held in French-speaking nations and regions of the world from March 14th to 23rd, the city of Geneva took to social media to highlight six typically Swiss-French expressions.

They are:

Ca va, le chalet?

This literally means, ‘how is your chalet?’ but in the Suisse Romande  it means ‘are you crazy?’

The same  expression in France is ‘tu es fou?’

Il n’y a pas le feu au lac 

No, this is not someone telling you the lake is on fire (which makes no sense whatsoever).

Instead, it expresses that something is not urgent — a message a French person would convey as ‘il n’y a pas d’urgence.’

Il fait bon chaud

Instead of saying simply ‘il fait chaud’, as any French person would, the Swiss prefer to interject the work ‘bon’ into this sentence — just because.

READ ALSO: Seven hacks you’ll need for life in French-speaking Switzerland

Remettre l’église au milieu du village 

You may think this means the intention to re-build a village church but, here too, you shouldn’t take this sentence literally.

In Switzerland, this means to put something in order or, as a French person would say, “remettre les choses en ordre.

Ça joue ou bien?

This means ‘is everything ok?’, or, if you only speak French-French, it’s simply ‘ça va?

Deçu en bien

For a Swiss person this phrase conveys that someone is pleasantly surprised — or ‘être agréablement surpris’ if you come from across the border.

But wait, there is more

The Swiss are not necessarily known for their penchant for simplicity, but when it comes to double-digit numbers, they opted for the less complex and tongue-twisting way than their French counterparts.

In France, for instance, 93 is quite a mouthful: quatre-vingt-treize (four twenties and 13), but the Swiss cut to the chase with nonante-trois (ninety-three).

Ditto for the number 70 (soixante-dix), 80 (quatre-vingt), and 90 (quatre-vingt-dix).

The Swiss-French equivalents, on the other hand, are the breezy septante, huitante, and nonante.

Other notable differences are, for example, collège or gymnase (high school) in French-speaking cantons, and ‘lycée’ in France.

Then there is la panosse (mop) in Switzerland, while the same thing is called la serpillière in France.

And another one is ‘Nom de bleu’, it is basically ‘dammit’ (pardon our French) — which is ‘nom de dieu’ in France.

READ ALSO: The Swiss French words which help you sound like a local

This is by no means is an exhaustive list, though many people may find it exhausting nevertheless.