Same language, different culture: respecting differences on labels


This blog has examined the barriers that might pop up between you and your customer if food labels and other forms of packaging are not designed properly. For example, using the right kinds of language is essential to appeal to a targeted audience. However, there are experiences that might not translate as well across cultures, not just on your labels themselves but also in the areas where your products will be displayed.

An article on BBC America recently highlighted the differences between grocery stores on either side of the pond, comparing both the larger economic differences between them as observable in these two countries and the more fundamental things regarding individual items that can be seen on shelves.

Written from the point of view of an expatriate Brit in a strange land, the article describes how different names and packaging policies can be confusing. While this can pertain to the names and spellings that are particular to each language, such as the classic distinctions between American “cookies” and British “biscuits,” it can also be a source of misunderstanding when it comes to other presentation elements, like the colors and images put on the front of wrappers, boxes and jars.

An  example this article uses is the way different brands of gravy are presented: in a jar in America, in an opaque container in the UK. A related issue is the country-specific use of warning food labels that foreigners might not be aware of, such as the red-to-green system previously discussed.

While there are very few ways manufacturers can ever hope to please every single possible customer, there’s a chance that the right choice of printing equipment can lead to making labels that are more familiar to recent arrivals to a new country.

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