Get your goods into the destination country

How to adapt your labelling and packaging for export

View transcript for Episode 5 - How to adapt your labelling and packaging recording
The way you label and package your product for a foreign market can have a large impact on everything from ease of shipping, dealing with regulatory bodies, and selling.There are key things to know.

To avoid hold ups, start preparing early. Check both shipping and freight forwarding, as well as local regulatory body advice. And find out what’s needed.

Pay attention to local rules on packaging and descriptions because they may differ significantly from the UK. Information like nutrition for example, could require different labelling.

Research what the consumers in your chosen market may expect to see. When considering packaging styles, make sure you research local buying behaviour and cultural associations. Packaging that may work brilliantly for a British consumer could be rejected elsewhere. Colours for example, have different associations in different countries.

Think about the end-users' needs and lifestyle. If you’re mainly going to be selling online, is your packaging post-box friendly, for example?

You’ll also need to consider language requirements. And in non-English speaking markets look to translate and localise your labelling.

Finally, make sure your product is properly packaged for international travel. Handling is not always delicate, so make sure it’s packed robustly. Check the requirements for all handlers. From home to the end users. And make sure you know what requirements they have for things like barcode labels. Because it’s likely there will be different requirements for different legs of the journey.

What you’ll learn

  • how to research regulatory requirements for labelling and packaging
  • how to recognise cultural differences and customer preferences
  • what's required to properly package your goods for international transport

  1. Start preparing early

    You cannot always rely on your UK labelling and packaging standards to be compliant in other markets, which may have different requirements. To avoid potential delays, consider what you need to do early in your export journey.

    You’ll need to meet the needs of:

    • regulatory bodies in your export market – you must establish what’s required legally
    • shippers and freight forwarders – check what’s needed for safe, efficient transport
    • your reseller – for example, barcodes or in-house branding
    • consumers in your market – what do they expect to see, what will make them buy?
  2. Follow the rules of your market

    Find information on regulatory requirements on the websites of each country’s regulatory body, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US.

    Pay attention to information like nutrition and allergy pointers and technical information such as required standards. A UK symbol, such as a kitemark, won't apply overseas, and you may need to add new symbols for your market.

    Descriptions on your labels may not apply in another country. If your product is labelled 'organic' in the UK, you may not be able to label it as that, or its equivalent, in your export market.

    There will be specific elements you'll need to include for the labelling of goods which are potentially harmful, such as chemicals, drugs or cosmetics. You can also check this with others in your supply chain, such as distributors and freight forwarders.

  3. Consider the culture of your market

    Consult your market research and check in with buyers on preferences. For example, you may be pleased with your stylish, dark UK chocolate packaging and want to promote this globally. But it may not appeal widely in many Asian markets, which can associate chocolate consumption with fun, and light and bright imagery.

    If you're picturing people on labels, make sure the way they're represented is appropriate to your market. This is especially relevant in several Middle Eastern countries.

    Colours have different associations in different cultures, some more positive than others. A black border around an image of a person in China indicates they've died, and are being memorialised. In the UK, US and Western Europe blue is the colour of trust, but in South Korea it's pink.

  4. Think of end-user needs and lifestyle

    Well-designed packaging and labelling can really help you break into a new market. For example, if you’re mostly going to be selling online, think about whether your packaging is post-friendly. Can it fit through standard letterboxes in your market to make delivery easier? Are there any innovative or eco-friendly touches your customers will appreciate?

  5. Translate and localise your label

    In non-English speaking markets using your customers' language will give your products a much broader appeal. It could also be a legal requirement – some countries' regulations state the exact terms to use when you translate packaging.

    A label with a website address and customer service details specific to your market will create trust in your brand.

  6. Package properly for international transport

    It’s wise to prepare for the worst – packages may be treated roughly and boxes don’t always end a journey “this way up”. Make sure your transport packaging is as robust as you can make it, and stackable.

    Identify the players in your supply chain, from your freight forwarders and shippers to resellers. They will all have different requirements for your transportation packaging and labelling – for example Amazon will require more than one label, each placed on specific areas of a package.

    There may be a need for several barcode labels, one for each handler during each stage of a journey.

    Check that legally required information is on your transport packaging. This might include perishable goods dates or hazardous and flammable warnings.

Never assume. Requirements and tastes are different for each country, and regulations can change. Mistakes can be costly, so do your research - and check regularly to make sure you're still legal

International trade adviser

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