DEALING directly with retailers and meeting export labelling requirements through well-built relationships have made Australian manufacturer, Lemnos Foods a success.
Lemnos, exporter of fetta, haloumi and paneer cheeses, sends about a third of its $20 million worth of products to countries in the Middle East, China, Asia and New Zealand. It uses some 50 to 60 different types of labels with a print run of at least a million a year, according Hari Raman, general manager, export for the company.
“First, we get the copy for the labels done in English and then translate using official translation companies, prior to having the artwork done. We then forward the labels to our distributors in the various countries for them to verify and to make sure the terminologies and the words used are not colloquial and don't mean something different.
“In some cases we may have three languages on a label,” Raman said. “There are many different labelling requirements. For example, the Middle East requires a production date and an expiry date. Some countries have rigid standards where even fat and sugar are broken down while others are more interested in the ingredients within the product.”
Success came from developing relationships and dealing directly with retail chains and distributors, promoting the goods, travelling frequently to target markets and making sure the taste and profile was palatable to all consumers.
“You have to be flexible, have excellent relationship management skills and most importantly have your board and management committed to exports,” Raman said. “Watching the market and doing your research properly is essential to success”.
The variety of countries exported to, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, New Zealand, China and Indonesia, meant a careful eye needed to be kept on labelling requirements.
“Our distributors keep us informed of any specific requirement that might have come into law. We visit the markets very frequently to strengthen our relationship and also to keep abreast of what is happening in the market in terms of competitor activities and changes to any regulations with regards to import regulations and so on.
Also being part of various country associations such as the Arab Chamber of Commerce is a good way to get updated with label regulations changes.
Lemnos switched to label manufacturer insignia two years ago due to quality issues associated with its previous label suppliers.
Raman forwards the label specifications to insignia which then has to produce print runs in sometimes high-pressure situations.
“Particularly in our kind of business, labels are sometimes required urgently or things need to be changed quickly and that’s when we particularly appreciate insignia's attitude and approach.
“We overcame our obstacles with the other labels we were using when we moved to insignia. One of the problems is the way our product is transported. Cheese is generally transported in refrigerated containers in temperatures ranging from 2 to 4 degrees.
“We noticed that in the early stage of exporting, we received complaints from our distributors that in some instances labels were coming off, they were not sticking properly or the production expiry dates were rubbing off, which could essentially get our product deleted from the supermarkets or be rejected by the health authorities in the respective countries.
“The quality of the labels supplied by insignia is excellent. The staff have a customer-oriented focus and if other companies can emulate some of insignia's attitude to selling I think they would be a lot more successful,” he said. Insignia (07 3364 2121)