Printed packaging has a key role to play in the fight against counterfeiting. David Pittman reports
Modern packaging has evolved to match the changing retail environment; from an initial means to protect a product during transport, to an essential tool in promotion and now the growing number of packs that offer a “performance” element once the consumer has taken the product home. Take Tyler Packaging’s “shaker” bag, with a perforated inner membrane for the dispersion of dry products like lawn seed, or one of the cartons from Leo Luxe Packaging that doubles as an ice bucket, as examples of packaging with enhanced functionality.
The three Ps of protection, promotion and performance have helped create packaging that is optimized to meet the needs of consumers, as well as provide brand owners with a means to maximize the potential of their products, with packaging designed, shaped and finished to emerge victorious at the “moment of truth”.
Packaging to protect
Packaging as protection extends beyond the physical safety of the product, to brands and consumer products groups (CPGs) looking to uphold their reputations, and combat the black and grey markets for forged and diverted goods.
From visual elements such as typography and image layout, through to covert processes and finishes that allow the verification of a product’s authenticity, suppliers have offered, and continue to develop, systems that provide the tools to combat forgeries and confirm authenticity.
‘This is particularly important for products that are ingested,’ says Stefan Perlot, general manager of Securikett, which specialises in the development and delivery of brand protection systems.
Perlot draws attention to the deaths of 19 people in the Czech Republic from consuming counterfeit alcohol, and says the need for systems to authenticate products as legitimate is heightened when it comes to those from the pharmaceutical or beverage market.
‘Consumers and brands are looking for simple and available tools to provide protection,’ says Tesa Scribos international sales director Frank Waegner. PrioSpot from Tesa Scribos gives each product an individually-generated code that can also be used for product tracing.
This makes it possible to check both the authenticity and authorized distribution of the product. The item-unique code is inscribed on several different verification levels, from overt to covert requiring special equipment to view, at the same time. A database of unique serial numbers is then available to be verified online by retailers, consumers, customs officials and investigators.
The ability for consumers to verify and authenticate products is a growing trend, as reported by Vandagraf International in its “Mobile Advertising/Promotions and Consumer enabled product Authentication with Smart Phones” report, which states there is huge potential in consumer-enabled product authentication.
A number of suppliers in the security space already offer smartphone-enabled systems commercially, including some well-known to the packaging market and some new entrants. This includes Highcon and its Euclid digital cutting and creasing system for folding carton production.
This has been hailed as the “ultimate” in anti-counterfeiting by Glossop Cartons director Brian Sidebottom, with the ability to partially cut and crease elements using digital processes that are unable to be replicated on another system.
Glossop Cartons will be one of the first companies in the world to install a Highcon Euclid (see pp. 22-23), and Sidebottom has said the company plans to look at new ways to use the technology that have not yet been imagined, such as authentication.
Another supplier to the packaging market is AlpVision, with its Cryptoglyph system. Cryptoglyph is a security process that provides invisible marking with standard ink and using standard printing processes, such as offset, rotogravure and flexo. This means the system can be easily integrated into current packaging production lines, as the Cryptoglyph image file is embedded into the pre-press artwork, allowing converters to print at normal speed without any additional steps or breaks in the process.
Integration into the artwork origination stage also means Cryptoglyph does not have any meaningful impact on packaging as modulations in the surface coating and microholes, invisible to the naked eye and hard to distinguish under magnification, combine to provide authentication. Packaging featuring Cryptoglyph is then authenticated using an iPhone installed with the company’s app.
Dr Fred Jordan, AlpVision’s chief executive officer and cofounder, has spoken in detail about the potential of mobile phones to provide instant and secure brand authentication.
He was part of a panel looking at this topic at the IP Protect Expo 2013, alongside Waegner and Jeremy Plimmer, secretary-general of the Product and Image Security Foundation.
This discussion noted that the rise in app-driven smartphones, such as Apple’s iPhone, has given consumers the power, and the tools, to become more engaged with authentication. While overt protection using holograms is established, the ability for the process to be mimicked by counterfeiters has led some to question its effectiveness. Fully covert systems, such as taggants mixed into the ink formulation, allow professional bodies to authenticate, and track and trace products using special hardware.
App-based semi-covert systems bridge these systems, providing a more secure system that is not instantly visible.
They also allow for easier spot-checks by a brand’s own brand protection team, who can visit a store and authenticate products without the need of special readers.
Jordan also notes the potential of SMS, or text messaging, as a rudimentary, yet fundamentally more accessible tool for consumers to authenticate products via mobile. This is particularly true in developing countries where smartphone penetration is less extensive. Still checked against a secure database, text authentication then provides a means for rural emerging markets to make sure pharmaceuticals are genuine products, for example. However, while AlpVision’s app does not require connectivity, SMS-based authentication does. Another drawback is that SMS authentication requires a unique code per item, which increases the cost of production and can be easily copied.
Integration with marketing
Many of these semi-overt authentication systems also act as a useful tool in opening up a dialog between brands and their customers.
Securikett’s Codikett system, for instance, provides each product with a unique code that can be verified globally, and monitors the supply chain to allow traceability. This can be applied directly to the packaging, or with the addition of a security label. The tool also provides the opportunity for brands to expose customers to other collateral about the product, or associated products, as an addition to authentication.
Almost all other systems likewise present an opportunity for brands to engage further with consumers, and Tesa Scribos’ Waegner says consumers now expect the availability of additional information, and are opening themselves up to a brand by authenticating a product, bringing the two closer together.
‘Consumer awareness is growing,’ says Waegner. ‘But they are not the only target group for these tools, and there are many others in different positions in the distribution chain whose needs must be accounted for. Their involvement level depends on this position.
‘These tools must also be robust and reliable, and be fully encrypted to ensure the validity of authentication.’
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