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Trace One: Reducing the package-labelling headache  


Food package labelling represents a major challenge for manufacturers looking to market their products internationally. In the absence of harmonised regulations, they must adapt to changing and increasingly drastic regulations from various local or regional authorities.

Focus on the headache of labelling food packaging with the experts at Trace One, a global leader in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and regulatory Compliance solutions within the process manufacturing and retail CPG space, which helps manufacturers get new products to new markets faster.

Package labelling: Common rules, but major differences between markets

The labelling of food products serves the same purpose around the world: to inform consumers about the contents of what they are buying. The key information found across the world relates to ingredients, nutritional values, expiry date, product name, storage conditions, details about the producer and allergen information.

While the same key details can be found across the globe, there are significant differences at local and regional levels in terms of how to provide legible and understandable information to consumers. There is no harmonisation of the rules governing the labelling of food products, making it more difficult to bring new products to market.

The first barrier in terms of labelling is language, as Jovana Stevanovic, Senior Food Regulatory Specialist at Trace One, explains: “The Food information shall appear in the label in the language of the country where product it is marketed, which makes it complex to use the same packaging in several countries.  In case you would like to have multilingual label on the packaging, producers need to pay attention that all label elements are represented in the same way for all countries in one label.”

This problem is even more complex than it seems, adds Nurberk Derelioglu, a Regulatory Specialist at Trace One. Packaging labelled in several languages, ‘cannot have different texts for different markets and must be based almost word for word on the legislation in force’, she points out. “This means additional steps for product development, additional costs, and a risk of not complying with the regulations.”

The interest of consistency and coherence of regulation on food labeling is huge. We can see this tendency at EU level. However, each regulator has its own requirements, which protect consumers and force manufacturers not to provide misleading information, which can include very high levels of detail. Sometimes, even the same regulation is applied, and could be interpreted differently by different national authorities. In some countries that took over EU food labeling regulation rules, such as Turkey and Serbia, interpretation could be different from one at EU level.  For example, European regulators allow the display of images of fruit on packaging as long as natural flavorings are used. In Serbia and Turkey, instead, fruit must be present in the product to be able to use real picture of fruit on the packaging.

These marginal differences can quickly become real headaches for manufacturers, who often have to rethink their entire packaging in order to penetrate certain markets. It is an expensive and time-consuming task – even more so when certain markets require additional information. Nutriscore, for example, is compulsory in some countries but forbidden in others, with very different requirements from one market to another.

Constantly changing regulations slow down product marketing and trade.

“Food product package labelling is very complex because regulations are constantly changing and this has an impact on product marketing,” says Stevanovic. “You need to understand the trend in regulation change in order to be ready to adapt in a cost-effective way.”

Derelioglu believes that there is no end in sight to the constant changes in regulations and the lack of harmonisation at a global level: “The profile of consumers differs from country to country, which makes total harmonisation impossible in the short term.”

What is also clear is that, within a single market such as the European Union, it is impossible to have 100 per cent harmonization, with rules constantly differing to some degree from one country to another. Stevanovic says: “There is a tendency to harmonize labeling regulation, from producers’ side, as well as from authorities’ side because it simplifies the import-export process, as well as product development process”

At the same time though, many countries want greater control over the products they market, and multinationals may find it easier to develop their marketing locally to adapt to differences in regulations.

To protect their citizens, local and regional authorities regularly change their regulations, whether it is to increase transparency requirements – as we have seen in recent years with allergens – or to simplify labels to help consumers better understand the information. These different levels create numerous challenges for manufacturers. “If regulation changes in one country, that could easily spread in other countries, too” adds Jovana Stevanovic.

“It’s a domino effect,” agrees Derelioglu. “There is an tendency for countries to the seek harmonisation but its can never be achieved. Seeking for the local requirements leads to the additional costs or wasted time.”

Trace One solutions for real-time information on regulatory changes, saving time or improving efficiency

“Companies need to invest in compliance tech – like the solutions offered by Trace One – because it prevents both risks and extra costs at the same time,” sums up Derelioglu. “If you have don’t have the right tech, it’s not easy – almost impossible, in fact – to check every market and reach out to the every authority.”

To be able to quickly put products on the market that are adapted to different regulations, Trace One offers software solutions that provide real-time knowledge of regulations on a global scale and guarantee that the products developed or their packaging meet the requirements of the markets where they will be marketed.

“Trace One technology makes it possible to the find up-to-date information quickly and have it immediately available, while at the same time being able to compare the different regional regulations and past regulatory developments within the same market,” Derelioglu explains.

Trace One’s tools also provide access to draft legislation, providing early warnings and allowing users to anticipate future changes. Trace One offers manufacturers ‘easily accessible information, updated in real time and covering all global regulations’, concludes Stevanovic. The aim is to make sure that labelling complies with regulations and enables new products to be marketed quicker than ever in new markets.  By leveraging Trace One, businesses can navigate complex regulatory landscapes more effectively and focus on delivering safe and high-quality products to consumers while tackling challenges such as product lifecycle sustainability or Packaging management solutions.

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