Second part of a series of two posts about doing business in Europe written by Jan Jonckheere, one of our consultants, also Professor of International Business in Business Schools and Universities in Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands. Check the first part!
How can you find out whether your product may be affected by it?
- Possibly the best way is to do store checks (visit some local supermarkets or other shops in the various countries of destination, and carefully study the products. If this is not a good option because you are too far away from the countries of destination, you can contact a company which can do the storechecks for you (f.i. Gedeth Network also does this);
- Contact government, export promotion agencies, the Chamber of Commerce
- Have a specialised consultancy office do the study for you
So, then, what should one take into consideration when wanting to consider exporting to the EU or Europe?
- In how far is your product affected by local culture, taste, attitude etc..? Probably you may have to look for “clusters” of countries where the respective cultures have certain similarities, and try to treat these as one market and thus adapt your product for that “one market”. F.i. the Baltic States, the Benelux, the Nordic countries, the Mediterranean countries…surely there will still be cultural differences, but for a lot of products or services that will not be a problem anymore.
- Due to local legislation, you will always have to put the local languages of a country on the packaging. It’s difficult to put 24 languages (that’s how many official languages are spoken in the European Union) on one packaging (but I have seen some companies doing it nevertheless), but you can make multi-language version. Just make sure that there is always one main language to which you can always sell a lot: f.i. if you are a Spanish company selling a product in the Benelux and France, you can make it in Dutch and French, but it might be a good idea to also add Spanish (so you will always be able to sell it in your home country Spain) or English (meaning you can always sell it in some other markets)
- Check EU and local legislation, especially for products where Consumer Protection is high, f.i for food and medicaments, and make sure you understand what is expected from you as a supplier. There is an EU-legislation for Consumer Protection, but member states of the EU may decide to go further and continuously launch new local initiatives. Some countries are f.i. promoting the “Nutriscore” for food, and some international companies have already decided to adopt it, but it is not an EU-law. Nevertheless, depending on which market, Supermarkets may require you to put it on the packaging.
- Of course, also take into consideration your market potential: some countries in the EU have a much higher population (France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland) than other ones (Slovenia, Baltic States), whereas some have a GDP/capita much higher (Germany, Benelux, Nordic countries) than others (Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia,..).
Where to find information?
- Official websites from the European Union (f.i. for food: https://ec.europa.eu/food/index_en)
- Government agencies, export promotion agencies and other international business-related organizations of the countries, like the Chamber of Commerce
- Industry-specific associations and clusters
- Specialized export/import consultancies
- Customs agencies
- Normatives/standards/regulations institutes
- Gedeth Network
Doing business in Europe can be a challenge if you do not have exhaustive prior knowledge on the topic. We do have it and we have representation in more than 75 countries, so contact us if you need information!