Language and Localization in Packaging and Labeling for Export: Asian Market

As a business owner, you know full well how important the presentation of your products is to local markets. Beautiful packaging adds to your customers’ unboxing experience and can help improve your brand perception. However, apart from the beautiful presentation of your products, there is another element that plays a crucial role in building trust with your clientele.

And this is the labeling of your products according to the standards of the country you’re selling in. With this in mind, it is essential to adhere to national packaging and labeling standards and this is why this article explores several factors that require not just translation but localization in packaging and labeling.

We also look at what some of the key requirements are when exporting from Asia to the rest of the world and when exporting to the Asian market from other countries by looking at the case studies of Japan, China, and India. Let’s get started.

Factors that require localization in packaging and labeling

Localization is not just translating some text word for word. It goes beyond literal translation and takes numerous factors into account. For this reason, when doing localization for Asian labeling and Asian packaging, there are numerous factors that you must take into account. A short but not exhaustive list of these factors includes:

  • Labeling and packaging: Depending on the product you are selling, you need to be strictly compliant with the packaging and labeling requirements of your target country. Examples of strict measures that are taken in countries such as China and Japan relate to cosmetics. For instance, their cosmetics labeling is very strict and requires strict compliance. Other aspects to consider include food products, which often require the country of origin to appear on the label as well as pharmaceutical products, such as medical devices, which don’t always need the name translated but which require information about the device in a national language.
  • Ingredients: The European Union (EU) is one of the strictest places in the world when it comes to monitoring and policing the ingredients that make up a final product. It is not only a labeling requirement to mention the ingredients used in your product. It is also about ensuring that you do not use products whose use is completely prohibited within the area.
  • Language: Many countries make it obligatory to have labels and packaging translated into specific languages. Thus, your packaging and labeling go beyond merely adding ingredients in a local language. There is an obligation, in some cases, to translate and localize everything on your package to ensure your product is fully compliant with local requirements when entering a market.
  • Marketing: When marketing your products, you also face strict restrictions. For example, products that are “organic” or “cruelty-free” must have back-up claims to support this marketing strategy. It is also important not to exaggerate benefits or health benefits. And in some cases, it is illegal to make claims about product sizes and quantities.
  • Culture: The final aspect to consider in your labeling and packaging localization needs is culture. Local culture can play a crucial role in how your product is perceived and taken up by the local target audience. Factors such as colors can hold different meanings, such as black for mourning in the West while white is used for mourning in China.
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Exporting from Asia to the rest of the world

Exporting from Asia to the rest of the world requires a deep understanding of the particular market you are entering. Some examples of regulations worth considering include:

  • Finland: Products that require Safety Data Sheets (SDS) in Finland must ensure that the SDS is in both Finnish and Swedish. Product labels must be provided in both languages.
  • Malta: Malta requires SDS in Maltese and English with product labels available in both languages.
  • Luxembourg: The compulsory languages for an SDS in Luxembourg are French or German, and these are also the two languages for product labels.
  • Belgium: Depending on the region where the product is placed on the market, the SDS must be written in French, German, or Dutch. A strong recommendation is to consult local authorities to check the language(s) of the SDS and label.
  • Great Britain: A simple translation of an EU SDS into the country’s official language is insufficient. Documents must be adapted to comply with the regulations in force in the country.
  • Switzerland: Unless a supplier and a professional end-user agree otherwise, labels must be written in at least two official languages (French, German, Italian) and the SDS must be written in one or more of the official languages.
  • Mexico: All product wording and branding should be in Mexican Spanish.
  • Canada: Product wording must be available in both English and French.
  • USA: Although it is not a requirement, English, Spanish, and French are the most commonly used languages on packaging.

Exporting to Asia from the rest of the world

When it comes to Asian labeling and Asian packaging from the rest of the world into the Asian continent, other strict rules apply. Below, we cover a few of the requirements that companies seeking to enter the Asian market must comply with in order to ensure customer trust and regulatory compliance when it comes to their Asian labeling and Asian packaging.

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Japan

Japan’s customs services are highly specific about the quality of Asian labeling and Asian packaging and that is why correct packing, marking, and labeling are critical for smooth customs clearance in the country. It is worth noting that although labeling for most imported products is not required during the customs clearance sale, it is necessary at the point of sale. Another peculiarity about this market is that packing in straw is prohibited.

The languages in which labels and packaging must be translated are Japanese, English, and French. The metric system of measurements is used in the country. Also, the country of origin is not a compulsory requirement to add to your Asian labeling and Asian packaging, except for food and drinks. What is more, Japanese legislation provides specific labeling rules for certain foodstuffs and textile products, electrical appliances, and consumer goods.

In short, packing and labeling requirements in Japan are governed either by technical or mandatory standards and regulations or non-mandatory, voluntary standards. However, culturally speaking, respect for compliance with non-mandatory standards is highly regarded and can help increase sales and product acceptance by consumers.

China

Asian labeling and Asian packaging for China fall under different regulations. For instance, packaging materials should not be poisonous or dangerous and must be easily degradable and recyclable. Any wood packages must carry the IPPC mark. The key language permitted on packages is Chinese. Furthermore, the country uses the metric system alongside Chinese measuring units. When it comes to information on the country of origin (“Made in”), this must be clearly displayed on the product.

Further labeling requirements include that the name and address of the distributor registered in the country should be included on the label. Labels for food products must contain the net weight, the list of ingredients, the address of the Chinese distributor, the date of production, and the expiry date.

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Products requiring the China Compulsory Certification CCC mark, in addition to undergoing an application and testing process, must have the mark physically applied on products before entering or being sold in China. Standards in China fall into one of four broad categories: national standards, industry standards, local or regional standards, and enterprise standards for individual companies.

India

The last case study we will explore regarding Asian labeling and Asian packaging is India. All pre-packaged commodities imported into India must carry the following declarations on the label:
Multilingual packaging

  • Name and address of the importer
  • Generic or common name of the commodity packed,
  • Net quantity in terms of standard unit of weights and measurement,
  • Month and year of packing in which the commodity is manufactured, packed, or imported,
  • The maximum retail sales price (MRP) at which the commodity in packaged form may be sold to the end consumer

The languages permitted on packaging and labeling are English and/or Hindi, while the standard units of measurements are a requirement on all goods and transport documents. The mark of origin is not mandatory, although it is necessary for food and drinks.

Although the standards proposed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) are voluntary in nature and are not mandatory, the government of India has enforced mandatory certification on various products. The symbol of the standard is ISI. Every ISI mark has a fixed format that carries the Indian Standard number on top of the mark based on the type of product. Finally, certification by the BIS is highly regarded in India, and it can increase the sales potential.

Conclusion

Wrapping up, it is clear that Asian labeling and Asian packaging can be highly complex fields to navigate, in accordance with the rules and norms in every Asian country or foreign market. So, when you are considering tapping into the Asian market, make sure you are fully familiar with all the Asian labeling and Asian packaging requirements and choose a translation and localization partner that has extensive knowledge of the industry and of national regulations.