In the mid 80s regional packaging was a curious mix of standards from the US, UK, Canada, or none at all.
Barcodes were definitely in the future and Nutrition Facts existed, only if the country of origin had a lab. Trinidad, Jamaica and to a lesser extent, Barbados, were the leaders in standards. This was spurned on by the regional presence and manufacture of international companies and brands and an emergent CARICOM, beginning to take more control of our own environment.
These days we are moving forward. The harmonization of Customs and Excise across states and the establishment of credible manufacturing sectors with a need for standards on ex-CARICOM competitors, as well as local standards to protect consumers has demanded that packaging and its legal and regulatory declaration must be in place.
The same may not be said of the necessary legibility and aesthetics in regional packaging. Our presentation leaves much to be desired. It may be legal, but is it appealing and does it make sense? While that may appear to be a sales and marketing question and not a standards one, good quality guidelines in packaging display and declaration can go a long way to enhancing the image and shelf appeal of any brand. What we declare and how we declare it, how visible necessary information is and how and where we express it, may be the singular difference between a product’s export success and failure.
In the smaller, more tourist orientated islands of the Caribbean, locally made products have traditionally busked their sales appeal on a ‘Tropical’ laid back style, with lip service paid to an image of sophistication. And yet we are as sophisticated as the places our visitors come from. We are no longer a backwater destination and with that in mind, we should now endeavor to show the best of our selves, without looking to make our potential customers sorry for us. The packaging, in all its forms, should tell the prospective buyer that story. From layout to illustration, brand to product title, Nutrition Facts to barcode, lifting each element up in turn, it will garner more consumer confidence for both locals and visitors.
In as much as we must lobby and recommend, explain our case and be patient with the powers that be, the initiative does not become reality if we wait for Standards Organizations alone. Business drives an economy.
As we stumbled around in the mid 80s we had second hand information, grudgingly provided, and tardy in its timing, with no-one to explain it. Now we have information as fast as Google and the internet, with tutorials forums and contact email addresses, ready and willing to provide an endless stream of information. So, by rights, designers, clients and printers have no excuse. The age of the internet should give rise to a revitalized Caribbean image and with that, improved and consistent packaging, giving renewed confidence to producers and customers alike, with a true character to export.