As an inventor, foreign distributor or manufacturer of a new product, you may be asking yourself when the best time is to produce bilingual packaging for the Canadian market. My answer? The sooner the better.
Before the rise of Amazon Prime and the major societal shift towards next-day-delivery online shopping, I would have suggested that you wait until your product is ready to be pitched to major retailers in Canada. However, the tides have shifted and Amazon.ca is now considered one of Canada’s major direct-to-consumer distribution channels, and with that comes a much faster entry into the market for most manufacturers.
You may think that your Amazon product can fly under the radar on Amazon.ca without having to invest the time and expense of creating bilingual packaging. However, the failure to provide bilingual packaging for pre-packaged products could result in your product being de-listed from the site – leading to revenue-sucking downtime and expense to reprint and reship your compliant product.
As you can imagine, bricks-and-mortar retailers in Canada will not accept a product unless its packaging is compliant to the bilingual labelling regulations in force – and in my experience, major players like Canadian Tire and Costco can have very specific terminology requirements for product listings and packaging. This is for a good reason – with most consumers now searching online on retailer websites before making a trip to the store, your product must be listed with keywords matching similar products, or it becomes virtually invisible online.
A good translator should cross-reference terminology used in listings for similar products on websites such as Canadiantire.ca, Costco.ca or Walmart.ca.
Here is a reference guide to bilingual labelling requirements as set out by major Canadian retailers, including links to their vendor guides:
“Pre-packaged products, textiles, and precious metals sold in the Amazon.ca stores must comply with Canadian packaging and labelling requirements. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in your product being de-listed and/or deactivation of your selling account.”
“You will transmit content in both English and French per Walmart’s defined parameters. You shall ensure that all content is in compliance with applicable Laws. You are responsible for providing a translation of the English content completed by a registered member of an accredited translation agency and Walmart reserves the right to refuse any content if Walmart deems, in its sole discretion that the translation is of a poor or inadequate quality.
“All consumer unit packaging, whether it is part of the Canadian Tire private label brand or a Vendor’s brand, must be bilingual (English and French) and in compliance with Canada’s Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act (R.S.C. 1985, c. C38) and Quebec’s Chart of the French Language.
French must be featured at least as prominently as any other language on merchandise, their containers and wrappings, and documents or objects supplied with them, including directions and warranties.
Vendors are responsible for any Fines incurred by Canadian Tire for non-compliance with these bilingual requirements.
Distributors and retailers are liable for a Fine of $500 to $1,400 for the first offence, and $1,000 to $7,000 for each subsequent offence.”
“Identification for each product should comply with federal and provincial laws and regulations applicable, including but not limited to bilingual packaging (French and English).”
I have also requested information/statements from Home Depot, Loblaw and Best Buy Canada, and will post if I receive more information.