In guidance released earlier this week, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) detailed what could change in the labelling of UK-made food and drinks products if Theresa May’s administration fails to strike a deal with the EU before the deadline on 29 March next year.
A key focus of Defra’s guidance was on UK exports, which are regulated under EU standards currently. Labelling of the origin of food would have to change as UK products are currently labelled as ‘EU’ in international markets.
This would affect the UK’s geographical indication (GI) scheme, which is managed by the EU at present, and could lead to an independent GI scheme for the UK and a new logo to represent the UK, though no plans have formally been put in place so far.
Regarding the ripple effects these changes could have on label printing in the UK, companies who spoke to PrintWeek expressed little concern due to the “dynamic” nature of their industry, which regularly benefits from changes in branding and labelling.
Brentwood-based Baker Labels anticipated little disruption in the UK market, and welcomed the opportunities new regulations could bring.
Managing director Steve Baker said: “This is not really of high concern for us. The vast majority of our work is for the UK market. In fairness, legislation has always been the label industry’s friend as the labelling will no doubt change under new regulations and rebranding will occur.
“We will increase stock levels of raw materials to allow us to ride any initial transition period but I’m sure this won’t be a major problem.”
Stockpiling has been a key preparatory measure for a number of industries in the lead-up to Brexit, with a concern that delays at customers, increased tariffs or price rises could mean materials are harder to move over the border after 29 March.
However, though Bradford-based firm the Label Makers does not have the space to do its own stockpiling, it is anticipating benefits from a pre-Brexit rush among some of its international clients.
“We have had notification from one of our customers who are a worldwide supplier that they have started to stockpile in Europe ahead of Christmas and then the March deadline,” said managing director David Webster.
“So we are going to see an increase in production at least for that period which is very interesting and obviously benefits us. Aside from this customer, we deal largely with UK clients so otherwise we are not too worried about food and drink exports affecting us.
“These possible regulations are something I have heard little about and really I think show that no one knows what is going one. I expected us to have a done deal by now but we have still not seen anything from the politicians.”
According to Ian Kendall, managing director at Mansfield-headquartered Reflex Labels, Brexit is set to have little negative impact on his business and has instead led to a “boom” as more food and drinks manufacturers have started on-shoring their production with UK companies in order to keep trading in the country after Brexit.
“I cannot subscribe to the panic and the feeling that Brexit means the end of the world,” he said. “As a result of Brexit we are seeing a lot of food and drinks products being packaged and labelled in the UK that were previously done abroad – business is absolutely booming for us.
“The only concerns I have been hearing from people are to do with the supply chain and any delays at customs, but we have been extending our factories so we have the space to stockpile in the event that comes to be.
“I believe the sun will rise on 30 March and Britain will still be here as countries do not trade with countries – businesses trade with each other, and that will continue. As far as labelling changes goes, there is always a steady phasing in and out process so with a bit of common sense that should not impact the industry much as we have always been dynamic in the way we operate.”