Brexit continues to dominate the news agenda across the UK and Europe. But even as a potential leaving date becomes less certain, the manufacturing and production sectors should nevertheless be bracing themselves for unprecedented change and demands on their businesses.
Between alterations to export tariffs, customs procedures and legislation, food production is likely to be one of the most affected industries. There are a number of challenges on the horizon, both immediate and long-term, that conscientious manufacturers will be preparing for, with one of the most significant changes being to packaging and labelling.
The UK government has outlined guidance on food law and labelling in a post-Brexit market, with changes centered on the UK reverting to its own laws on the production, processing, labeling and trading of food products after Brexit. Despite many of these potential changes being immediate on exit day, a planned 21-month transitionary period, expected to end in July 2021, has been designed to smooth the labeling changes as producers adapt to the new requirements.*1
Through the transitionary period and beyond, consistent, effective and agile packaging and label production will be crucial to helping reduce the impact on trade and revenue not only to businesses within the UK, but also to those businesses within the EU trading with the UK. But with a number of significant changes on the horizon, what are the priorities likely to be for the food manufacturing supply chain?
From the day Brexit is enacted, regulation will require new clear and consistent address marking. The details of the Food Business Operator (‘FBO’) will be required on every pre-packaged food item exported from the UK into the EU, as well as on all food products sold in the UK, regardless of origin. This is in a bid to tighten up traceability and accountability. The UK government has advised that in instances where the FBO is not based within the UK, the importer’s address is used. In either eventuality, this will lead to significant demand for new labels on a huge number of products.
While some businesses have chosen to implement this addition to labels already, the FBO address requirement will become mandatory during the export process. In the post-Brexit world, converters will be immediately called upon to deliver new packaging and labels which fully adhere to the regulations.
Health mark relabeling
Under current legislation, Products of Animal Origin (POAO) exported from the UK into the EU – such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products – must be labeled with an EU-standard mark*2. Under a no-deal Brexit, products that have this mark applied would be placed onto the domestic market immediately after exit day. But if the UK and EU reach a deal, the current European Commission (EC) health marks applied to products in the UK would still be used for the duration of the implementation period. If a deal is not reached, food businesses will be unable to apply the EC health standard label to POAO, meaning the new, revised UK labels would come into effect immediately. EU Food Law documentation has advised that in this scenario, the two-digit ISO Code ‘GB’ or the full designation of ‘United Kingdom’ will be mandatory.
Under UK Government recommendations that businesses continue using existing EC health and identification marks until exit day, those that continue to stockpile existing identifying labels will need to adapt quickly and will find a large quantity of labels going to waste, heightening the need for agile manufacturing processes to replace these en-masse.
Clarity of origin
Following Brexit, food produce can continue being labeled with its country of origin, but cannot be labeled as being of EU origin unless from an EU member state. Similarly, the EU emblem can no longer appear on packaging after exit day. In a bid to create greater clarity, products of mixed origin such as oil blends, processed fruit, vegetables, and meats that contain components from within both the UK and EU, must be labeled and identified as such.
As part of a growing drive to improve transparency and accountability across food manufacturing, the sector will find effective labeling and identification more important than ever, which will undoubtedly lead to greater demand on converters.
Dynamic Content is key to managing
While this greater demand should ultimately present an opportunity for converters to grow their business, the question remains as to how to avoid the volume of work suddenly becoming a planning and overtime disaster.
As these potential variations in packaging designs clearly need to be implemented accurately and in time, it is incumbent on converters to get pro-active and ensure they are properly primed. Production files can be prepared by converting static objects such as ingredient tables, marketing slogans, symbols and pictures into ‘dynamic objects’. These are Illustrator objects, linked to an external database. As the database is changed, amended and updated, modified objects are automatically applied to the packaging design through the automated server.*3
Part of the trouble with predicting anything post-Brexit is that the process is unprecedented. Food manufacturers will find a number of changes are needed regardless of the outcome, but the full extent of the impact on industry cannot be determined until the change is enacted. What is clear though, is that in today’s competitive business environment, where supply chains seek greater efficiency wherever it can be found, there is ample opportunity for brands and manufacturers to tighten up their label processes in advance.
The key to success – as is increasingly the case in a complex manufacturing landscape – is agility. Fast turnaround and adaptability are key drivers for Esko software solutions, allowing businesses to harness the flexibility required to meet post-Brexit demands. Label production and the wider packaging sector have relied on consistency and large scale print runs for a long time. As market uncertainty looms, agility and excellence in short-term adaptability have become key competitive advantages, ones that could be of paramount importance in a post-Brexit world.
For more on Esko and its products, visit www.esko.com.
*1 See “UK Government guidelines and restrictions in a post-brexit retail landscape: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/food-labelling-changes-after-brexit
*2 See “UK Government guidelines and restrictions in a post-brexit retail landscape: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/food-labelling-changes-after-brexit
*3 For more information on Dynamic Content, visit https://www.esko.com/en/products/dynamic-content
Esko, a Danaher company, is a global provider of integrated software and hardware solutions that digitize, automate and connect the go-to-market process of consumer goods. Esko connects people, processes and tools to meet the needs of global brands and the people who trust them.
Esko customers bring consumer products to life with accuracy, efficiency and speed. Packaging for 9 out of 10 major brands is produced by Esko customers today.
Headquartered in Gent, Belgium, Esko employs 1800 people worldwide with a unique focus on the packaging sector. To find out more, please visit www.esko.com