“Made in” country

Made in Germany.

Made in France.

Made in Italy.

Made in Japan.

Made in India.

Made in China.

Made in ______.

In today’s saturated marketplace, according to Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, there are nearly 30,000 new products introduced every year. How does one look for the cues to determine which is an excellent product versus a mediocre one? Recently, the idea of where a product is made was weighed in my decision making process. The above list is just a few of the export-oriented countries that are typically seen. Often seen in fine print behind / under products, the more visible the “Made in” label is, the higher the likelihood of its association with a well-reputed “Made in” country. This country and its reputation were built from the cumulation of value, quality, reliability, and user experience delivered. Within each industry and each country, through the course of history, a specific manufacturer became linked with the best in class within its industry. Is the country where a product is made a key factor? Or do other aspects such as the design aesthetic, its materiality and others have further weightage?


Made in Germany label on a trusty old camera that still delivers. Image by Von Chua.

An internationally recognised manufacturing giant, Germany sports the Made in Germany label that is often associated with precision engineering and high quality. From cars to beers, this appears to be true. A combination of high labour costs, high energy costs and political red tape, has led a number of Made in Germany manufacturing giants such as Volkswagen and Bosch to move production to other countries such as North America and Asia. Today, a brand like Bosch operates across 40 production sites in Europe, the United States, Latin America and Asia. What could a brand like Bosch put in place to ensure that the same product made across each production site is delivered to the same level of quality? How does a large organisation manage differences from skills to culture, while maintaining a level of consistency? With company ESG targets and sustainability becoming a prominent factor to today’s consumers, would a like-for-like product made in a different country be perceived differently? How does the carbon footprint of the transport of raw materials and finished goods weigh?

As one of the most important agricultural producers in Europe, France is also one of the global leading manufacturers of luxury goods, pharmaceutical products/cosmetics, and transport-oriented manufacturers within the aerospace, railway and automotive industries. Within the luxury goods industry, Made in France is still highly regarded by consumers who are willing to splurge on haute couture and luxury leather goods crafted in France. For example, Christian Dior created the maison in 1946 with three ateliers and a staff of 85 people. Today, the ateliers still play an important role and the maison continues to pass on the skills from generation to generation. Apprenticeship programs within luxury French houses  invested by each brand or its parent company from LVMH to Richemont continue today, to ensure creativity, innovation and quality continue to flourish within the brand’s home ground. Within the fashion industry, Canada Goose’s CEO Dani Reiss pledged the manufacturing of their garments to remain Made in Canada. Today, the brand continues to own and operate seven manufacturing facilities across Canada. In the coldest winters across the world, the Canada Goose down jacket Made in Canada can be seen worn in major cities all around the world.

In another continent, Japan, the quality movement began in the late forties with a heightened level of quality control. In pre-war Japan, there was almost no distinction between handicraft and production using machines; both methods of making were simply known as kogei or craftwork. Post-war, the respect for the manufacturer, whether it is a traditional craftsman or a worker producing in a factory is the attitude where things are created with the respect of monozukuri or making of things. Combined with the Japanese’s innate sense of preciseness and diligence, manufacturers in Japan controlled the quality of the Made in Japan goods, and additionally, the Japanese manufacturers also took pride in the making of things. There was a conscious effort to improve the making processes, which also led to finding efficiency in the use of materiality and also production cost. With this, Japan rapidly rose and built its reputation for producing high quality exports at an approachable price point, delivering high product value across various industries. Within the consumer electronics and automobile industries, Made in Japan became synonymous with quality computers and quality cars. Overall, Made in Japan products rose to become synonymous with quality at an attainable price point, greatly cementing its reputation as a manufacturer, and benefiting consumers from all over the world. Today, this way of thinking is evident in companies like UNIQLO, which has an inventory largely made outside Japan. However, UNIQLO founded in 1949 inherited the spirit and successfully delivers quality garments at an affordable price, as well as taking a lead in the development of technical fabrics better known to consumers as the HEATTECH range with textile manufacturer Toray Industries.

Of a similar reputation within the manufacturing industry yet to mention are countries such as Switzerland, Italy and the United States. In recent decades, “Made in” labels include countries such as China, South Korea and Indonesia that have risen as manufacturing powerhouses. China, the largest exporting country in the world with a global manufacturing output of 28.4%, shows that there could be vast differences in quality depending on the industry in discussion. Regardless of the industry, it is undeniable that China has a large pool of skilled workforce whose access is competitively priced. For example, highly qualified engineers in China can attract and retain some of the biggest manufacturing jobs in the world. One such example is the production of Apple’s iPhones. To put the number of iPhones that Apple needs to be produced in perspective, between 2013 and 2022, the number of iPhone users grew from 329 million to 1.6 billion, which is a staggering 1.279 billion growth in the number of users. The ability to meet the demands of the rapid growth did not happen overnight as Apple already begun forming partnerships in China since 2001 to build the necessary infrastructure from constructing factories to housing facilities for the factory workers. Following the pandemic, some companies including Apple have now diversified from their manufacturing reliance on China because of the production and supply chain disruptions experienced.

As a consumer, how does the “Made in” label and reputation affect your purchasing decisions?