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Why Product Label Compliance Is Key for Seamless Global Expansion 

Think of the last time you bought a new beauty or cosmetic product that was new to your country, and you hadn’t tried before. You probably read the label to make sure you used it as recommended by the manufacturer and scanned the ingredients to check whether they were right for you. Meanwhile, another consumer on the other side of the world might have been doing the exact same thing at their own local shop.  


Labels may not be the first thing that comes to mind when devising a multimarket expansion strategy; however, they play a key role in the context of a firm’s international journey. For businesses looking to go global, getting product labelling right from the very beginning is vital. It can be the determining factor that gives them competitive advantage and puts them ahead in the race to the shelves of both physical and virtual shops.  


Beyond aesthetic matters such as creating an appealing packaging and choosing the right colour palette, ensuring labels are compliant with local regulations is imperative to the seamless rollout of a product in a new market. This can be particularly challenging for global firms with multimarket operations. Product labelling is a highly regulated activity by governments and bodies across the world, especially in sectors such as beauty and food and beverage, where safety and health concerns are a central issue. Laws may vary widely from country to country or region to region, meaning that a one-size-fits-all approach to international labelling might not always be a possibility. 


Cosmetics: EU vs US comparison 


Let’s look at an example from the beauty industry. The EU stipulates that cosmetic products need to list their ingredients in descending order according to weight, and ingredients below 1% may be listed in any order. Colourants may also be included in any order using the Colour Index (CI) number.  


Additionally, while English can be the main language used on the label, the EU requires that the product function, claims, directions of use, and warnings or precautions be translated into the local language of every member state market where the item will be sold. This can be particularly challenging for markets such as Switzerland, which has four official languages (French, German, Italian and Romansh). 


On the other side of the Atlantic, in the US, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) requires companies to list the ingredients in the same way as the EU does; however, when it comes to colourants, businesses must use FDA nomenclature. All required information on labels must be in English. 


In the US, it’s also particularly important whether a product makes any therapeutic claim; if so, it will be regulated as an over-the-counter drug, rather than a cosmetic. This means a completely different set of requirements, so translation for this market needs to be especially accurate in this respect. 


Compliant design 


While product label compliance may seem like a purely legal matter, ensuring labels are in accordance with local regulations is also deeply linked to the design of the label. 


For example, font size is another aspect of label compliance and, as such, it is subject to local directives. For cosmetics, the EU stipulates that font height for weight declaration is determined by the net content, starting at 2mm for products up to 50g/ml. Meanwhile, in the US, it varies in relation to the surface area of the principal display panel (PDP, the part of the label consumers look at when the product is displayed for sale), with the minimum font height set at 1.6mm for PDPs of 5 square inches or less. 


Logos and symbols also follow strict rules. In Japan, the law requires that paper and plastic packaging materials be labelled with a ‘materials identifier mark’, which is different for each of them. If the product is sold in the EU and comes in a package that contains over 5ml/g, an ℮ mark with a minimum height of 3mm is required. 


All of this means that the regulations will affect the design of the labels, which in most cases will look different from region to region or country to country. Businesses must not only think about creating good looking labels to attract consumers, but to also design them with compliance in mind, factoring in the lengthy list of (visual and linguistic) requirements to suit the different markets’ local regulations. All of this while also ensuring the brand’s identity and look and feel are not lost in translation. 


Label compliance means a faster product rollout 


Launching in a new market can be a busy time for businesses. Being clear on label compliance regulations in the early stages of an expansion plan will help pave the way for a seamless product rollout and avoid errors that can result in costly delays and loss of competitive advantage.  


Creating labels with the support of a language service provider that has extensive specialist expertise on the subject will ensure that the new products reach the shelves in a timely manner with accurately translated and locally compliant labels.  


At THG Fluently, we’ve been providing expert language services to the beauty and food and nutrition industries since 2003. In that time, we’ve learned what it takes to give organisations the support they need to thrive in international markets, no matter where they are. Product label compliance is just one of the many services we offer to do this. So, if you’d like to learn more about how our specialist product label compliance service can help your business grow, feel free to get in touch


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