Packaging and labelling

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Importance of packaging

Once a company has manufactured its products, the goods must be transported to their international destination. If the products arrive in the foreign market damaged or spoiled, they will most likely never get sold, and will cost the company, financially and give them a bad reputation. Thus, durable, appropriate, and cost-effective protective packaging materials and methods must be used so that the company can deliver its products intact at the lowest possible cost.

Packaging does not end here, however. Once a company has successfully transported its goods to its foreign market, they must then be packaged to satisfy the storage, delivery, display or handling needs of the customers. Appropriate packaging such as point of sale packaging, plays a critical role in this phase since it serves as a production or marketing tool for the final distribution and sale of the goods. Often, such packaging is crucial for the inherent qualities of the goods to be recognised by the customer. It is not enough to have an outstanding product. Its packaging must be equally suitable for the product to sell.

Appropriate labels are just as important as point of sale packaging and protective packaging. Protective packaging, point of sale packaging, and labels are three vital elements to exporting that should be adapted to each selected foreign market in order to satisfy the needs of the various clients, as well as comply with international regulations.

Packing products for export

There are many factors to consider when packing products for export. The most important of these are:

Nature of the goods: Are they perishable, fragile, heavy, or hazardous? Example: fruits and vegetables are perishable; petroleum is hazardous; antiques, pottery and some forms of artwork may be fragile.

Mode of transport: Will the product be transported by road, rail, sea, air, or multi-modal (a combination of modes)? How will these products be handled? What specific considerations must be given to each mode of transport? For example, heavy and hazardous petroleum would not be transported by air, due to cost and danger.

Customers’ specific requirements: Are there any special requirements or requests made by the customer? For example, does the customer require the cargo shrink wrapped and palletised for ease of handling?

Prevailing regulations: Do your international markets have specific laws or regulations specific to packaging? How will this affect your packaging? For example, the European Union has very specific regulations about packaging material being recyclable.

Storage of product: Does your product need to be stored in a specific way en route or once it has reached the importer? How is it likely to be stored? For example, ice cream must be kept frozen; fruit and vegetables should be kept in an environment where temperature and humidity or even atmospheric gases are regulated.

Available technologies and materials: What types of packaging materials are available to you? What technologies are there to assist in the protective packing process? For example, packing materials such as flame-retardant foam insulation might not be readily available, so if your product is highly flammable, an alternative should be found.

Weight and dimension

It is important to establish how many items can fit into a pack (cardboard box, drum, etc.), as well as the weight and dimension of the final pack. This is important because the freight forwarder would then be in a position to quote the freight amount on this final pack. If you were going to dispatch your products in a 6 or 12 metre container by sea, prior to the loading of the container you would need to establish how many packs you would fit into the chosen container. This will ensure that the containers are not being shipped half-empty (thus incurring higher costs).

The exercise below will help you establish (on paper) how many packages would fit a 6-metre/20ft container.

Container calculation

Step 1: Measure your packed product along the length, width, and height in metres (the outer pack e.g. a cardboard box, shrink wrapped and palletised).








Step 2:
Find out the dimensions of your container.

In this example we are using a 6-metre/20ft container, thus the dimensions are:







Step 3:
Divide the length of the package into the length of the container.

5.876m divided by .950m = 6.18

Therefore you would be able to fit 6 packages along the length of the container.

2.330m divided by .450m = 5.17

Therefore you would be able to fit 5 packages along the width of the container.

2.197m divided by .235m = 9.34

Therefore you would be able to fit 9 packages along the height of the container.

Step 4: Multiply 6 x 5 x 9 = 900

You will fit 900 packages into a 6-metre/20ft container, based on these dimensions.

By turning the contents around you may also gain more space in the container, (bearing in mind that certain products such as wine can only be stacked upright). You also need to take the weight of the product into account: for a 6 metre container, you can only safely load 18 tons. A 12 meter container should not be loaded with more than 27 tons. Your freight forwarder can also assist you in establishing how many items/boxes you can load into a container.


Labelling is used for:

  • easy identification (of all kinds of packages and their contents during handling, transport, and warehousing);
  • informing the consumer (about individual goods, the specification of the goods, date of validity, quantity, hazardous nature of the product, etc.);
  • providing proper product identification and information to product users; and
  • informing the users on correct use of the product.

There are two types of labels to consider: labels applied to packing (outer cardboard boxes, containers, etc.); labels applied to packaging or point of sale materials.

A packing (protective packing) label must:

  • show the physical address of the exporter/SHIPPER and contact details;
  • show the physical address of the importer/CONSIGNEE and contact details;
  • be easily understood (preferably in the language of the importing country);
  • indicate the country of origin, departure and arrival point, and indicate any transit points;
  • include cautionary and handling marks (do not drop, fragile, keep dry, etc.) – pictorial symbols are best;
  • indicate the box’s number within a shipment of multiple boxes - for example: 38/100 boxes, indicating that this is box 38 of a shipment of 100 boxes;
  • indicate weight and dimensions of the package; and
  • show the order, letter of credit (L/C), import license numbers.

A packaging label (point of sale) should contain the following:

  • quantity;
  • validity, or best before dates;
  • date of manufacture;
  • country of origin;
  • bar code;
  • compliance with safety and environmental regulations (e.g. recyclable material compliance);
  • specifications i.e. ingredients and nutritional facts;
  • how to use instructions;
  • storage conditions;
  • certification marks such as the Kenya Bureau of Standards' Diamond Mark;
  • copyright, name and address of manufacturer;
  • be in more than one international language; and
  • boldly display the name of the product.

Information on labels varies, depending on the nature of the goods inside and the importing country (some countries specify the font and the language to be used and even the location for the label on the carton).

Designing the label

The most important factors for any label is that they should be: durable, explanatory, visible, informative, and legible.

Labels to be fixed onto packages may be chosen among several materials, such as: paper, plastic foil, aluminium foil, embossed tin/aluminium plate, or direct printing onto packages. Today, emphasis is on environmentally friendly materials.

About BrandKE

The Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency (BRANDKE) is a new State Corporation established under the State Corporations Act Cap 446 through Legal Notice No.110 of August 9th, 2019
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