Food packaging translation

Issues for first time exporters

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Food packaging translation

Issues for first time exporters

Let's Speak.

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Food Packaging Translation – issues for food retailers and manufacturers

Are you a retailer or food manufacturer looking to export for the first time, and therefore needing translation?

An introduction to food packaging translation:

The translation industry has some norms, and “best practice” approaches which you should be aware of when selecting a translation company. Here are some of the crucial issues to look for:

  1. Translation should always be human authored, i.e. the company should use professional translators, not a machine. As you may have noticed, Google translate is very dubious.
  2. Your translation company should be able to demonstrate some marks of quality, as you would expect, we are ISO: 9001 certified, have full professional indemnity insurance with worldwide cover, and work with top retailers and food manufacturers.
  3. Food is a specialist technical area, does your proposed supplier specialise in translating food packaging? We make use of glossaries, translation memory, and specialist dictionaries, to ensure not just that a translation is correctly understood in the target country, but also that any official terminology is correct in the target language, for example within the EU, phrases such as “best before”, “produced and packed”, “allergy advice”, all have official equivalents in the 22 official EU languages.
  4. Selecting wording to be translated: this is essentially a task for you as the retailer or manufacturer. many companies opt for the legal minimum wording in the target language(s), often driven by lack of space on pack, whilst this approach is understandable, the danger is to cut the marketing too much, such that the consumer lacks a clear call to action to buy the product.
  5. Layout and font sizing. Again this is largely an issue for you, working with your artwork house to decide how best to incorporate multiple languages on pack is highly recommended, to get the best possible result. The EU, and many overseas markets have required minimum font sizes. Again giving the best possible consumer experience should be the aim.
  6. International food compliance: this is a complex area, and approaches vary between companies, maybe you have a compliance team in-house, or maybe you need to commission an external compliance report. We can help if you require compliance advice for the majority of international markets. Compliance reports take time, depending on the complexity and volume of the project, and should be undertaken before commissioning food packaging translation. This is because required changes to the source language, or information provided, will have implications for the translations, and you don’t want to have to pay twice, due to the need to update the source language, for example changing ingredients or marketing claims.

Planning and preparing for multilingual artwork:

  1. As you would expect, client confidentiality prevents us showing you samples of work we have undertaken for competitors, although we can of course give client references. You may want to look at multilingual packaging by buying products in market, and seeing what has been done well and what you would do differently.
  2. Space on pack: this is always a challenge with translation. If the source language is English, the majority of translated languages will be longer than the equivalent English text. French or Spanish for example are typically around 20 – 30% longer, and some languages, like Russian, just appear to go on for ever! We have clients who have to justify every individual character on pack because of the lack of space, if you are already having to do this in English, the target languages will be a major challenge.
  3. Style guides. Artworkers and marketing departments often want languages to all look the same, with the same formatting, fonts, capitalisation, etc. The problem with this, is that there are important stylistic differences in many languages. Here are just a few examples: a) French, (and many languages) uses lower case, not sentence case in ingredients lists, you can test this in-store in France, look at some of the international packaging, and you will see all the ingredients capitalised, look at French packaging, and you will find them in lower case. b) Arabic: there is no capitalisation in Arabic, the equivalent is to show text you would fully capitalise in English in bold in Arabic. c) German: capitalisation is always more tricky with German, because the opposite applies, many common nouns which would not be capitalised in English, are capitalised in German, and not to do so makes them look wrong and shoddy, not the image you want on pack.
  4. Language compatibility in Illustrator or InDesign: things are improving here, but a major issue with multilingual artwork is ensuring correct display of accents, special characters and fonts. We always use Unicode compliant fonts, some clients have had their own font developed, and if it won’t support the required target languages, don’t try, it will end in tears! Some fonts such as Chinese are straightforward to use, but are expensive to buy if you don’t have them. If you are the size of Tesco, and have several thousand SKUs to translate, this won’t be an issue, and your artwork house will need to buy them, but if you are a small food manufacturer with only a couple of product lines, this could be cost prohibitive. We can provide typeset text in any major language to your size requirements.

This page raises some of the key considerations when contemplating multilingual packaging, talk to us at an early stage so we can understand your requirements.