What You Need to Know About Label & Packaging Translation

What You Need to Know About Label & Packaging Translation

Ensuring that the translation of your labels and product packaging is on point can often spell the difference between successfully breaking into your foreign markets, or not.

Of course, given that you’re trying to take your brand overseas, you’ll only get one chance to make a first impression on a new customer or make a name for your brand with your target foreign audience.

This is precisely why label and packaging translation needs to hit the right notes from the very beginning – and this means more than simply translating the words on your product from English to your chosen language.

To ensure localised packaging resonates with your audience and local authorities from the outset, you need to consider how your imagery, colours, marketing messages and local legislation may change your product.

In this blog, we’ll cover what you need to know about label and packaging translation.

What You Need to Look Out For

Before you undertake any product packaging translation project, there are a few crucial things that you need to remember about your chosen territory:

Label & Packaging

Various countries and territories can vary hugely on the different laws that exist in terms of what should be appearing on product packaging. It’s important to access each region in which you plan to sell your products to ensure that all labelling and packaging laws are adhered to.

Each region my vary depending on their requirements based on what the product is, for instance:

  • Food Products – In EU countries, food products need nutritional content to be displayed on the front of a product. The same applies for some Far Eastern countries, such as Thailand. However, this does not apply in the States. Products in the EU must also clearly state the country of origin, display evidence on any given health benefits, list all allergens and ingredients in full.
  • Medical & Pharmaceuticals – The EU specifies that certain medical devices aren’t required to have their name translated. However, the user must be able to obtain relevant information on that device in their national language. The EU is incredibly strict when it comes to medical and pharmaceutical product packaging.
  • Cosmetics – EU laws state that all cosmetic items must have appropriate function, warnings and ingredients stated and available in every EU national language. Outside of EU countries, China, Japan, and other Far Eastern countries are also known to be very stringent in cosmetic labelling.


Legal bounds for labels and packaging don’t stop at what should and should not be featured in the text. They also dictate what languages they should say it in too.

Many countries across the world make it obligatory for product packaging to be featured in certain languages, for example:

  • Mexico – all product wording and branding should be in Mexican Spanish.
  • Canada – product wording must be available in both English and French.
  • EU Countries – products must be translated into various EU community languages.
  • USA – although it is not a requirement in the States, English, Spanish and French are the most commonly used languages on packaging.


Although this legislation is not strictly defined to the labelling alone – it is crucial to keep it in mind. Various products, or more specifically, the components and ingredients used to make them, must be approved for use in the countries that you’re planning to sell in.

The EU has some of strictest ingredient and component legislations anywhere in the world, particularly when it comes to policing banned or restricted ingredients. Therefore, any products containing certain elements will not be cleared for access when attempting to enter a country that prohibits its use.

For example, dough conditioners such as potassium bromate and azodicarbonamide are used widely for baking in the US.

However, they are also considered as possible carcinogens and have been proven to exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma. It’s for this reason that potassium bromate is banned in China, Europe, Brazil, and Canada. Whereas azodicarbonamide is banned in both Australia and Europe.


Most countries deem it illegal for companies to pander exaggerated health benefits and specious claims on their product packaging, and for good reason.

In Britain, for instance, it’s illegal to make claims about product size and quantity, and you must ensure that any celebrity or professional endorsement is completely legitimate – otherwise you could face a hefty fine and an FCA fraud investigation.

EU regulations also stipulate that you cannot use product descriptions that suggest a product is of significantly better quality than it truly is. The same applies to pictures which imply anything other than what the product is capable of.

This applies also to words, such as “cruelty-free”, “natural” and “organic” – all of which require evidence to back these claims.


Cultural identities are very broad and intricate and can change significantly throughout the world. That’s precisely why it should be at the very forefront of your thinking when you’re looking to break your product into markets in foreign lands.

After all, many of the biggest companies in the world from Best Buy to Huggies have failed to grasp foreign markets due to a lack of understanding of cultural nuance.

A good example of this in action can usually be found when comparing the different ways in which we perceive colour. In most cultures, colours can encompass everything from traditions and moods to symbolic and even religious significance.

For instance, the colour associated with mourning changes from culture to culture:

  • Western Countries – Black
  • China – White
  • Brazil – Purple
  • Red – South Africa
  • Grey – Papua New Guinea

This is a very simple reminder to ensure that you approach your packaging design and branding with extreme caution, the very last thing you want to do is render your product unappealing, or worse, offensive to another culture.

How to Choose the Appropriate Specialist

As well as selecting the right professional translator for the job, you must also choose one that is familiar with the industry in which you operate.

This insider knowledge can be crucial in certain industries. A good example of this is the manufacturing industry, which requires an understanding of the different aspects of production and the machinery in operation in both the source and target languages.

Many industry-specific terms and colloquialisms may not be translatable either, in fact, many may not mean a thing to someone operating in a different region.

What Can Anglia Translations Do for You?

By selecting the right translation company to localise and transcreate your product labels and packaging, you’ll find that the whole process is far easier than trying to cut corners and save some cash.

With our exceptional knowledge of a range of industries, and an understanding of how your company plans to sell in various regions, we can help you create the products that prove a huge hit with your target demographics and grow your brand abroad.

With three-decades of experience in the linguistics industry, and a working understanding of over fifty different languages, we can offer you a range of help and advice when you look to take your business overseas.

If you have any further questions on what we’ve covered in this blog, or you’re interested in hearing more about any of our other servicesget in touch today.