Food and beverage exports. Eat, drink… translate!
Your products are ready to go, but how about the paperwork?
Food ingredient labels are often culture-specific and a potential source of translation problems. Gastronomy is deeply rooted in people’s cultural identity and health, and discovering exotic tastes from far-flung destinations has been a passion throughout history. The exponential demand for international products is making accurate, high-quality language services essential to streamline formalities and keep the food and drink flowing.
The food and beverage industry has always been globalised. As far back as the Iron Age and the Roman Empire, trade networks were spreading through empires, forming sprawling food systems to serve large cities and fuel nascent economies. Today, these systems are massively diverse and complex. As you read this, imagine the countless tonnes of animal products, plants and plant products being transported by land, sea, and air between continents and countries to satisfy the needs and desires of approximately 8.1 billion people on Earth.
Manufacturers and suppliers can only prosper worldwide if they showcase and deliver products to buyers and consumers in global markets and comply with the plethora of regulations on marketing, food labelling, allergens, and languages in force in different countries. These days, whether you are a major multinational company or an SME, international food and drink exports entail a hefty set of challenges, one of which is the language barrier.
Food tags: Watch your words
When it comes to marketing, there are limitations on what you can and cannot say about your products. For example, in China, the Advertising Law expressly bans the use of the words “national/state level”, “top class” and “best” in advertising. In some countries, there are specific rules governing marketing messages, although there is no pervading international standard. In the European Union, there are rules for using words that suggest superior quality that are unrelated to the real production process, meaning that you cannot claim that something is ‘artisanal’, ‘traditional’ or ‘natural’ without justification. In the UK, for example, you must not make misleading claims about your product’s quantity or size, price, ingredients, origin, endorsements or what it can do.
Among the materials you may wish to or be required to translate are:
▪ Information on ingredients, food packaging labels
▪ Nutrition labels
▪ Allergen information
▪ Food marketing websites
▪ Social media
▪ HACCP documentation
▪ Recipes and nutritional labels
▪ Quality standards
▪ Product descriptions
▪ Food processing equipment instruction manuals
▪ Food manufacturing documentation
▪ Videos and apps
▪ Food manufacturing documents
▪ Food safety courses
The letter of the food labelling law
Food and drink exporters and importers must make sure that all essential product information is available to their customers in a language they understand, not just for marketing purposes but for safety reasons. Entrusting these important tasks to a well-organised, experienced team of legal experts and human language service providers is the best way to avoid costly and reputation-threatening errors and make your export business a success.
Before translating a product label, it is important to do some homework and see if there are specific national factors that may require special attention. These include checking the length of words in the target language to ensure they will fit on the label and whether you will need to opt for a different font, for example. There are also different labelling laws in different parts of the world, and labels must often be displayed in the official languages of the nations where the products are sold. Failure to do so could incur penalties.
What kinds of labels do I need to translate?
Among the many types of labels that require translation into your markets’ languages are the brand labels, descriptive labels, and informative labels that you feature on your packaging and ensure that your products are easy to recognise. These are accompanied by descriptive labels containing other information, such as user and product handling instructions. In contrast, information labels give consumers additional details such as expiration dates, storage recommendations, and the manufacturers’ details. All these labels are essential to consumers, which is why you will not be able to export or import food and beverages, pre-packaged foods, or food additives without them.
When it comes to European Union food labelling regulations, information on ingredients for easy label reading must be set out on the product packaging; however, sometimes, this packaging is removed or lost before consumption (such as the deli counter in the supermarket). Making this information available in different languages on your website allows international consumers to make informed choices. As well as allergies, there are numerous cultural, religious, and other lifestyle factors at play. Among the common declarations to include for food and drink exports are ‘haram’ (forbidden for Muslims), ‘kosher’ for Jewish people, and if they contain alcohol, which many people avoid for a variety of reasons.
The laws covering product packaging and labels differ greatly from country to country. In the United States, these matters are governed by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA). There are some very specific requirements as regards how you present the information; for example, the name of the food source of a major food allergen must appear in parentheses following the name of the ingredient (Examples: “lecithin (soy),” “flour (wheat),” and “whey (milk)”, or immediately after or next to the list of ingredients in a “contains” statement (Example: “Contains wheat, milk, and soy”).
In the United Kingdom, these matters are regulated by the Food Standards Agency. All food is subject to general food labelling requirements, and the information provided must be accurate and not misleading. Product-specific regulations control certain foods. These include bread and flour, cocoa and chocolate, soluble coffee, milk products, honey, fruit juices and nectars, infant formula, jams and marmalade, meat products – sausages, burgers and pies, fish, natural mineral waters, spreadable fats, sugars, irradiated food, foods containing genetic modification (GM). While the UK currently adheres to EU legislation (for example, many products in the EU must be CE-marked), it is essential to do your research on what’s required if you’re exporting to another country.
Prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) and Natasha’s Law
One recently passed national allergen law in the UK is Law, named after a teenager who suffered a fatal reaction to a prepared baguette. At the time, when food was prepared on the premises where it was sold, there was no requirement to display allergy information on the label, leaving sufferers vulnerable. However, they are now protected by this new law that requires full ingredient labelling on pre-packaged foods for sale and can eat and drink more foods with confidence. As you see, empowering your customers with this information in their languages is a highly effective strategy and can be achieved with the help of a skilled team.
In the European Union, Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 requires that mandatory food information appear in a language easily understood by the consumers of the Member States where a food is marketed. There are 24 official languages in the territory (Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish). Within their territory, the Member States in which food is marketed may stipulate that the particulars shall be given in one or more languages from among the official languages of the Union.
Mandatory food information must be marked in a conspicuous place in such a way as to be easily visible, clearly legible and, where appropriate, indelible and must not be hidden, obscured, detracted from, or interrupted by any other written or pictorial matter or any other intervening material.
Food and Culture
Anyone who has had a foreign holiday will have a funny menu translation fail to tell you about; in fact, there are plenty of web pages featuring some hilarious translation faux pas (thanks for the giggle, Google translate). As amusing as they may be, you certainly don’t want your website, menu, packaging, or marketing messages to go viral for the wrong reason! This is just a way of reminding you that all the details of your packaging must be checked and double-checked by ‘natives’ to ensure you’re not disrespecting the cultural norms of your target country or simply looking foolish. An in-country translation and localisation expert with a perfect understanding of the language, cultural idiosyncrasies and language will guarantee the target language has the marketing impact you need to achieve success.
The investment you make in professional language services is also an investment in your global branding because your website, multi-media content, and marketing materials will be equally effective and have a high impact worldwide. At CPSL, we have extensive experience assisting major food and beverage industry players with everything from marketing to regulatory documentation. Choose us, and we will assign language experts who understand multilingual SEO strategies and have marketing skills. We can help send your visibility sky-high, always mindful of worldwide labelling and other requirements that will streamline formalities when crossing borders and prevent unwanted delays.
So, now you know how relying on professional language services can avoid confusion and offence among customers, lost sales and opportunities, delayed product launches, expensive fixes, and legal liability. Last but not least, always remember to have your packaging rubber-stamped by an in-country compliance expert. Like translators, they are up-to-date with their country’s legislation and can reassure you that your packaging is fully compliant.
If you want to convey a brand image or achieve a certain look and feel, it’s important to be aware that packaging can be almost as important as the product itself.
As you can see, if you want to sell world-wide, you will need a language services provider with a network of excellent collaborators like CPSL to help you. If you would like us to explain more about how our language services can help you make your export business a success, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will be delighted to assist you.
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