The consortiums for Italian specialty foods Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano are to begin a far-reaching promotion and education programme in the US targeted to consumers, as well as the retail trade, foodservice operators and culinary students.

The campaign will be powered by a €4m (US$4.8m) budget over its three-year duration, beginning in early 2006. The European Commission has contributed €2m or the joint effort, and the remainder will be funded by contributions from the consortiums and the Italian government.

"The EU funding allows us to make our product more competitive in the US by raising consumer awareness about the qualities that differentiate Prosciutto di Parma from other hams," said Stefano Tedeschi, president of the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma. "At the same time we will be educating people about the PDO system that helps assure the high quality of our product and many other European foods."

In order to qualify for the coveted Protected Designation of Origin certification, products must meet rigorous standards related to naturalness, aging, authenticity and traceability.

Following consumer usage and attitude studies to help position the products effectively, the campaign will reach audiences through ads and articles in mainstream publications and hundreds of in-store promotional events.