Purpose – The present study using the Consumer Ethnocentric Tendencies Scale (CET-SCALE) aims to evaluate the level of consumer ethnocentrism (CE) and its implications on their evaluation of food products. Furthermore, it seeks to examine the level at which country of origin (COO) effect is activated (country, product or attribute) per consumer cluster of different level of CE in a food evaluation context. Design/methodology/approach – For attaining the above aims, a questionnaire was developed and completed by 274 respondents. The set of countries of origin and products under consideration encompasses Greece, Italy and Holland and yellow cheese, ham and beer. Findings – The use of the CET-SCALE pinpointed that the sample can be characterised as marginally ethnocentric. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses justified the uni-dimensionality of CE. Cluster analysis allocated the sample into two clusters, the ethnocentric and the non-ethnocentric. The results showed that ethnocentrism affects not only consumer beliefs, but also the way perceived quality of domestic and foreign products are evaluated, culminating in the appearance of COO-effect. In ethnocentric consumers, the COO effect is activated at the initiatory level of the country a food product originates in (country-specific), except when the foreign country of origin is given, where the COO effect is activated at the level of the product type (product-specific). In the non-ethnocentric cluster, COO does not lead to an overall acceptance or rejection, but instead it affects the evaluation of specific product attributes (attribute-specific). Research limitations/implications – The survey suffers the limitation of focusing on the influence of ethnocentric beliefs in food products evaluation and not on their real impact on final purchasing behaviour. Consumer ethnocentrism and COO effect are linked together, but the stimulus that activates their link differs according to the strength of ethnocentric beliefs held by consumers; that given, different marketing strategies should be applied depending on the level of CE of the target-group selected. Originality/value – Internationally, the issue of COO-effect is comprehensively examined, yet the literature has focused almost explicitly on hi-tech or fashion products and services. This fact attaches particular importance to the present study, which is concerned exclusively with food products.