Translating packaging in a post-Brexit regulatory environment

Translating packaging in a post-Brexit regulatory environment
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After a stormy few weeks, the dust following the UK’s vote for Brexit is starting to settle. However, with the form that Brexit will actually take still unclear and much wrangling over the TTIP deal with the US still ahead, international trade is facing a period of uncertainty.  For industries as diverse as food and drink, pharmaceuticals and cars, this lack of confidence in what the future holds is affecting investment and, naturally, feeds into business decisions on launching products into international markets.

Regulation – a good thing or a bad thing?

Business has always found rules and regulations restricting: doing away with “all that red tape”, the complex and sometimes opaque trading regulations that apply within the EU, was one of the key attractions of the Brexit promise to voters.  However, it is worth bearing in mind that trade regulations were drawn up to ensure that businesses in different countries are competing on a level playing field, never more relevant than when trading abroad. The so-called red tape has also played a critical role in providing customers with information and in ensuring consumer safety.

How is Brexit likely to affect current labelling regulations?

While the exact consequences of Brexit are as yet unknown, it is probably safe to say that most of the regulations regarding international trade will stay much the same as at present. There has been some speculation that food labelling regulations might be cancelled post-Brexit, but the EU Food Labelling Regulations are set to become mandatory in December 2016 and it seems unlikely that anything will change in this sector in the near future.

Current food labelling regulations are all about ensuring that consumers are well-informed about the food they are buying: most of the leading brands will continue to trade with the EU and have already made the changes required. It is possible that the layers of trading regulations affecting international trade will even increase, as new trading agreements with various countries are negotiated and signed. On the other hand, new regulations are likely to be targeted at specific products with the aim of simplification. Any changes that do come in are likely to be made gradually, allowing for a period of transition.

What are the potential consequences of mistakes in labelling?

International growth is still key to increased revenues and profitability and companies will always seek to trade with overseas markets.  Products launched beyond home borders will still need to meet the relevant packaging and labelling standards – so extra vigilance is going to be required in such a fluid and rapidly changing global marketplace.

International regulations are often highly complex and changing legislation can sometimes be unclear.  Companies which are not fully up to date or compliant with both international trade bloc requirements plus the more obscure local regulations can face consequences of varying degrees of severity:

  • they may find that they are out of step with their customers, retailers, distributors and suppliers
  • they may find themselves subject to fines
  • large scale and expensive product withdrawals may be necessary
  • the launch within that market is scuppered or has to be postponed
  • and, potentially the most costly of all, non-compliant or misleading labelling could lead to a PR disaster that affects a company’s reputation for years to come…

How can businesses be sure that their multilingual label is fully compliant?

You can keep your business ahead of the game by ensuring that you are completely confident with the translated versions of your multilingual packaging, making sure that these focus as carefully on the legal implications of the labelling as the original.

By tackling the following points well before launch, you will be on the right track:

  • Is there a master copy in the original source language that complies fully with international labelling regulations?
  • Multilingual labelling always means that space is limited- is the original copy clean, concise and worded clearly and simply?
  • Are the translated copies accurate, fluent and localised to ensure that they are culturally appropriate? The easiest way to ensure that the wording of the translation does not rebound negatively on the company is to use professional, mother tongue linguists – it is a mistake to rely on students or someone in the office who learnt the language at school. A skilled linguist can spot any subtle changes affecting compliance that may have occurred to the original meaning during the translation process.
  • Is the layout optimised for the different languages, characters and fonts so that it will look attractive to new customers within your target markets?

Effective solutions – and peace of mind!

At a time of rapidly changing parameters, managing issues of legal compliance for global markets in multiple languages is a challenging and complex task, requiring a combination of knowledge and skills, together with an ability to identify and focus on the key areas that will help your company avoid costly and damaging mistakes.

Any business serious about international growth in today’s uncertain regulatory environment will need to build a strong partnership with a professional language services partner – one with the capability to manage this whole process from start to finish. Being confident that your labelling is both fully compliant and appealing to your target global markets will establish the reputation of your brand and the foundations for exponential growth – and bring you that elusive peace of mind!

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