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7:57 AM   September 20, 2014
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Packaging in a Global Market

By Wendy Bedwell-Wilson

When it comes to selling goods in a global marketplace, one package does not fit all. Differing regulatory standards, requirements and consumer expectations in the North American and European markets pose a challenge to vendors manufacturing and distributing products on both continents, said Kosta Nicolopoulos, director of global marketing and category management for Rolf C. Hagen Inc., headquartered in Montreal, Canada. 

“You have to cater to each different market,” he said. “It has forced us to rethink packaging so that we are responsible corporate citizens from the environmental standpoint, but at the same time, we have to find the right balance of functional packaging that gets the product to the end consumer intact and also allows us the opportunity to communicate to the consumer effectively.”

That’s a lot of details to track and manage. Generally speaking, however, differences center on the information on the packages themselves, which includes health and safety data required relative to the country; the way the information is presented, which includes language and logo differences; and the materials used to make up the packages, which includes whether they’re recyclable or sustainable.

Nick Kornblith, senior product manager, nutrition, for United Pet Group Inc. in Cincinnati, Ohio, said some specific differences in the information presented on European and American packages include continent-specific EAN versus UPC bar codes, and varying EU versus Association of American Feed Control Officials regulations regarding the declaration of ingredients and guaranteed analysis.

“We’re not able to market the same labels in the European Union and the United States, even though some of the products are good sellers in both markets,” Kornblith said. “But in most cases, our product can be formulated to sell in both.”

Copy requirements vary, too, Nicolopoulos added, as do the languages on the packages.

“Depending on the markets you go into, there are certain specifications that markets require,” he said. “If you’re looking at the guaranteed analysis and some of the ingredient listings, they have to be for the local market. Sometimes you can get away with limiting product descriptors so that it’s not in every language.”

Sometimes space runs too tight for all that type, Kornblith said.

“One of the obvious challenges for packaging in the EU is that we usually try to squeeze multiple languages onto our small containers,” he said. “This often makes the copy very small and hard to read.”

Moreover, because some European countries, including Germany and France, require that the vendor or manufacturer pay for the recycling of their product packaging, companies that sell products globally pay particular attention to the amount and type of materials used to package goods, Nicolopoulos said.

“There is a higher awareness and cognizance of environmental issues in the European market,” he said. “We’re being careful not to use as much plastic, and reduce the footprint of the packaging and the materials that go inside.

“Consumers’ mindset is shifting and they are becoming a lot more sensitive to the environmental issues,” Nicolopoulos continued.

“They themselves are looking for products, and especially in the European markets, that have a smaller footprint. In Europe, we as a manufacturer and as a vendor have to pay the recycling facilities to dispose of our products, so it’s in our best interest to reduce some of the packaging and to think a little bit smarter.” <HOME>


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