4 strategies for clustering languages on your product packaging

Clare Daley
November 22, 2023
5 min read
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4 strategies for clustering languages on your product packaging

Language localisation is an essential component of packaging and labelling compliance. Consumers need to understand what they’re buying from you in order to build a safe, trusted relationship.

However, creating separate packaging designs for every market you want to sell in is not cost-effective. That’s why many CPG brands choose to group multiple languages on their product labels. But what’s the most effective way to cluster languages on CPG packaging?

To help you find an effective approach to multilingual labelling, Hooley Brown has curated four strategies for clustering languages on your product packaging:  

Strategy 1: clustering based on mandatory language requirements

One of the challenges that CPG brands face when selling to multiple markets is meeting local language requirements. In the EU, for example, labels must appear in the official language/ languages of the member state where the product is being sold.

The result of EU labelling and packaging legislation is that many brands choose to cluster multiple languages on product labels to make sure packaging is compliant in several countries. For example, any products sold in Belgium must display information in French and Dutch. By clustering these two languages, brands can create labels suitable for goods sold across the Benelux region and France.

Equally, brands selling products in Switzerland need to ensure that packaging information is displayed in French, Italian and German. Grouping these three languages means the same packaging created for Swiss consumers can be used across France, Italy and Germany.

In certain regions, there are opportunities to cluster additional languages alongside official requirements. For instance, products sold in Finland should include packaging information in Swedish and Finnish to meet EU law. However, it makes sense to have Danish and Norwegian too, so one version of your packaging can be used across Scandinavia.

This clustering technique works well for countries inside the EU, but CPG brands must take care when selling products across wider international markets. For example, a product labelled in French for sale in Canada may not automatically be saleable in France, as EU labels need to be compliant with EU laws as well as translated into local languages.

Strategy 2: clustering languages based on sales channels

Another way to approach language clustering is around your sales strategy. If your distribution channels include online marketplaces like Amazon, it makes sense to incorporate multiple languages on your product packaging. Clustering languages will allow your goods to be sold across numerous international markets while streamlining inventory management, as you don’t have to coordinate different SKUs for each country.

The most popular language clustering for products sold via Amazon is a combination of English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. However, you may also want to consider featuring Portuguese and Dutch if there’s room on your product packaging – this way, one version works across Europe’s biggest markets.

It’s also worth noting that Amazon marketplace requires vendors to provide customer support in local languages for regions in which your products can be sold. However, Amazon offers a language switching tool to translate content for any languages you don’t speak.  

Strategy 3: clustering languages by your target demographic

While there’s a legal requirement to include official languages on the packaging of each region your products are sold, this law assumes that consumers prefer to speak the native language. If your brand creates culturally significant products, your customer may speak a different first language – and it can be advantageous to include that language on the label.

For example, two million Turkish people live in Germany; Berlin has even been dubbed “Turkey’s second capital”. As a result, there is a high demand for Turkish products in the German market. The same is true in the UK, where there are approximately 48,000 resident Turkish nationals.

While products sold in Germany and the UK need to include product information in German/English to meet legal requirements, brands aiming their products at Turkish consumers would be wise to cluster Turkish with German on product packaging to increase its relevance and appeal. The same principle can be applied to any CPG brand targeting consumers living outside their home market.

Strategy 4: clustering languages to reflect product origin

While we’ve spoken about the importance of including official languages on product labels, in some cases, there is a strong argument for including regional dialects on packaging too.

Some brands use product packaging to convey a product’s origin. A good example of this is San Miguel lager: when sold in Spain, San Miguel’s products are labelled in Catalan and Spanish, as the brand’s roots lie in Catalonia.

There are other regions where the inclusion of local languages can showcase a brand’s heritage and positively impact sales. For instance, many brands from Wales choose to include Welsh on product packaging. In 2020, there was even a petition to make Welsh a compulsory language on product packaging and labelling. However, this petition was unsuccessful.

Consumer-friendly language compliance

Whichever clustering strategy your brand chooses to use, aligning language groupings with your marketing and sales strategy ensures that product packaging is both market-compliant and cost-effective to produce.

You can even use clustering to future-proof your sales plan. For example, including all major Scandinavian languages on your label even if you’ve only launched in one Scandinavian country. When you’re ready to expand, there’s no need to redesign and reprint your packaging.

But, as with all product development decisions, content clustering is not as simple as just picking your desired languages. Your packaging needs to comply with other legal requirements – which affects how much text needs to fit on every label, wrapper or box.

EU guidelines require a significant amount of information to be displayed to consumers at the point of purchase. These mandatory requirements can lead to an extensive word count on your product packaging if you’re planning to cluster languages.

To optimise your packaging and labelling for legal requirements and user experience, you may find it easiest to work with a CPG compliance agency like Hooley Brown.

We help brands develop packaging strategies that align with your marketing and sales goals, translating packaging content into your desired languages. We can also help you to create packaging artwork that ticks legislative boxes while still appealing to potential customers.

Book a free introductory chat with Hooley Brown to discuss your packaging challenges and develop a language clustering strategy.

This blog post was written in October 2022. Facts were correct at the time of writing.

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