No matter what kind of product you sell in any capacity in Canada, the number one legal requirement for packaging in Canada is the presence of a bilingual product identifier. But what exactly is a product identifier for Canadian packaging, and how is it different from your product’s trademark name? In a nutshell, the product identifier for packaging is the common name the product contained in your packaging. It is void of any brand name and/or specific features. It absolutely must appear on your Canadian packaging design in any situation.
Even manufacturers of iconic products must list the common product name on their packaging. For example, 3M may not simply list “Scotch Tape” on their packaging. They must also prominently include the words “Transparent Tape” or “Gift Wrap Tape” on the principal display panel in both French and English.
The product identifier must be spelled in the most common form – you may not use unconventional or creative spelling such as “kwik”, “EZ”, “kleen”, regardless of your Canadian product trademark. It may be tempting to add a number of different adjectives and features into your product identifier in an effort to entice the consumer and differentiate your product from similar ones on the shelf. The product identifier line is simply not the right place to do this, for a few reasons:
- Regulatory approval: You may get away with a creative product identifier in the beginning stages of your business, particularly if you are selling at farmer’s markets or small boutique stores. However, any large Canadian retailer that you approach in the future will require compliant packaging and a product identifier that is consistent with that of similar product sold in their stores. The last thing you need is for your first purchase order from Costco or Canadian Tire to be conditional on a packaging redesign.
- Sizing and packaging design: The wordier the product identifier, the more precious real estate it takes up on your Canadian packaging, especially once it is translated to French (as French tends to be longer than English). Your goal should be to find the most concise product identifier possible.
- Eliminating confusion: Consumers appreciate an easy shopping experience. You may think that choosing a product from range of similar ones on the shelf comes down to common sense and price comparison – however consumers will be quick to dismiss your product if its intended use is not immediately clear. For example – let’s say you’re looking at 10 different wine decanters on a shelf. They all come in a box featuring a photo of the product. 9 out of 10 boxes list the product as a “Wine Decanter”, while one says “Alcoholic Beverage Server”. Yes, these products are virtually identical and all serve the same purpose – however a consumer’s first instinct may be to dismiss the “Alcoholic Beverage Server” as not being specifically made for wine. This may not seem like a big deal, but if your target consumer is the average person and not a wine connoisseur, they may not understand (or be willing to research) the makings of a wine decanter.
If you’re not sure exactly what your Canadian packaging product identifier should be, my advice is to research products on large Canadian retailer websites. Look up similar products on CanadianTire.com, Walmart.ca, Homedepot.ca, Costco.ca and even Amazon. This should give you a good indication of what other players in your industry are doing.
If you have any questions regarding your Canadian product identifier or Canadian packaging compliance in general, please check out my other packaging design tips or reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can download my Canadian Packaging Requirements guide here.