Language & Localization in Packaging and Labelling for Export

When engaging in export and international business, there are a number of things you have to consider. One of the most important is packaging and labelling.

Every country has different requirements for what needs to be labelled and how it needs to be labelled. Some even require different kinds of packing material that comply with recycling and safety laws.

Before you send anything to another a nation, it’s important to understand all of these requirements.


Language barriers are common issues in regard to international shipping. There are several laws that indicate whether or not the packaging of a product needs to be labelled with the host nation’s official language.

In North America, many multinational businesses develop their labels using a combination of English, Spanish, and French (or all three). This effectively means that they can ship products anywhere in North America as those are the three most widely spoken languages on the continent.

Even so, laws in the United States suggest that providing foreign language translation for safety information on certain packages is “appropriate,” but not necessarily required. In essence, providing foreign language translation services can be considered a good business practice, but not necessarily required by law. If you have information in your client’s language, they will be more likely to order from you again. That being said, it’s important to note that providing ineffectively-communicated or mistranslated safety precautions can land you in hot water.


Some countries, like the UK, require any food products to be labelled and described appropriately. In this instance, it is against the law to misrepresent anything about your product on the labelling. So, it’s important to ensure that you provide an accurate description.

Some of the things that are required to be accurate on packaging include:

  • Manufacturing method
  • Amount or size of the product
  • Manufacturing location and date
  • Composition
  • Endorsements

You cannot be misleading about any of these items. For instance, you can’t place an endorsement on your product from a celebrity who didn’t actually endorse your product.

Basic Considerations

It’s important to take a look at any local customs to ensure that your packaging meets certain expectations. For example, some countries like to have images of the product inside the packaging. You may also want to research translations and dialects to ensure that you don’t send an offensively labelled product to another locale.

Your product and the packaging around it need to be acceptable for travel on a number of different transportation media. Train, truck, and plane are all common modes of transport for which your packaging needs to be prepared.

It’s also important to look at the exterior packaging laws in some nations. There may be special rules associated with the recycling of cardboard and other packaging materials.

In any event, it’s certain that shipping to other nations is a difficult process. Researching the individual laws of your intended destination is a great way to get a grasp on what to include on your packaging. Of course, it’s always a good idea to provide safety instructions and other information in the language of the recipient. Just make sure to translate the content accurately.

Further Reading

For some more information on the topic, have a look a some of the articles below.

1.  What to Mark on your package for Export which is also published on Open to Export.

2. Product Labelling in the EU from EUbusiness

3. Labelling and packaging FAQs by The Law Donut

Topics: Documentation
Export Action Plan