Red, White and Gray
IN A PERFECT WORLD, everyone’s doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. The i’s are dotted, the t’s are crossed, the list is checked and double-checked, and it’s all on the up-and-up. But, as it became evident with recent headlines on product compliance, these things aren’t always best left to chance.
Offshore manufacturers face this challenge every day. Imported products can be offered at lower prices, sure, but due diligence must constantly be undertaken to weed out potentially dangerous items and labor practices.
The aforementioned headline-grabbing compliance issues have given way to a certain amount of consumer mistrust, yet, “That’s not to say all the products coming from China are dangerous or unsafe in any way, because … most are not,” noted George Gaida, promotional products division manager at LarLu and Display-Tec, both based in Winona, Minn. “It’s just a matter of confidence.”
The promotional products industry is trying hard to “cure” an import process that has revealed itself to be not-entirely healthy. In the interim, four simple words have become a panacea for distributors: “made in the USA.”
However, as with any product label, a certain element of transparency is required. Though domestic manufacturing existed long before the words “lead poisoning” or “recession” were ever uttered, negotiating the gray areas of USA-made product labeling requires an equal amount of information and care as anything brought in from overseas.
READING THE LABEL
When responding to the question, “How much of your line is made in the USA,” Dan Finn, president of Cincinnati-based Finn Graphics, answered in two parts. “100 percent of our manufacturing and imprinting is done within our facility. Raw materials are also purchased entirely within the USA,” he said.
The distinction between material origin and the actual production process is extremely important when considering domestically manufactured goods. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) details “all or virtually all” of a product must be made in the states for it to be labeled as such. This seemingly implies that everything, even the raw materials, would be grown, processed, handled and assembled right here on American soil.