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Pete Smallwood, Business Development Manager at speciality security printer Eltronis, highlights how the latest labels and technologies are protecting genuine items from counterfeit and providing quick, simple and effective authentication to both brand owners and consumers.
Editor: Simon Wildash Last Updated: 04-Sep-2020

In April this year, Europol highlighted significant growth in counterfeit products being sold during the COVID-19 crisis, with the pandemic providing ‘the ideal opportunity for criminals seeking to produce and distribute counterfeit and substandard goods’[1].

According to the report, pharmaceutical and medical items have been the key targets, but so have foods, with the substitution of meat and milk as well as the manufacture of fake supplements and vitamins. Not only do these goods not meet the required quality standards they also pose a real threat to public health and safety.

Packaging security

Packaging offers the perfect solution to distinguish genuine goods from counterfeits. While primarily designed to physically protect products in transit, the addition of cost-effective security technologies to the pack can also secure the brand.

Labels are often critical to this. Simple and easy to apply, they provide immediate visibility and brand recognition and can deliver immediate tamper evidence, showing if packs have been opened. However, it is the technology within them that provides the extra security and enables consumers to reassure themselves that they are purchasing the genuine article. As an example, tools such as ‘engage’ from Eltronis  allow consumers to use a standard smartphone to deliver authentication and product security, alongside delivering consumer engagement to brand owners. Easily introduced into an existing product line, the unique software recognises genuine goods by identifying a series of complex security features through a smartphone, such as taggants and other invisible technologies, enabling in-field authentication without the need for complex readers.

Using online technologies such as this within a label or pack also provides the perfect opportunity to add a variety of additional overt and covert technologies for extra security. Sophisticated holograms, security print and inks can deliver a multi-layered approach to protecting and securing brands in one label.

Protecting brands & people

A recent case study highlighted how security labels successfully aided the resurgence of two pharmaceutical brands that were experiencing massive falls in sales due to Russian counterfeiters.

Romanian Pharma companies Biotehnos and Rompharm, had seen significant declines in sales of their Alflutop and Rumalon brands. On investigation, it became apparent that the success of both products had made them a lucrative target for counterfeiters, to the extent that almost half of the branded drugs in the market were showing as fake.

Not only did these counterfeits impact on sales by replacing genuine products with those of unknown quality, the high percentage of fakes meant that doctors had lost confidence in the brands and stopped prescribing them.

A layered approach

Holographic labels were recommended by Eltronis for both brands to help protect them from the counterfeiters. Importantly, the solutions also focused on re-building brand confidence among medical professionals.

The sophisticated designs used a combination of high quality overt and covert security features. This, combined with advanced adhesive technology, allowed the label to be applied to both the ampoule and its packaging, creating an effective security solution that was virtually impossible to counterfeit and providing quick and easy authentication of the genuine pharmaceuticals.

Within a year, confidence had increased significantly among medical professionals, and the latest data shows that sales volumes have now recovered to previous levels.

Increasingly global markets and the continual growth in internet sales mean the challenge of counterfeit goods will continue long after the end of this pandemic. Protection technologies that can be easily and effectively integrated into packaging will become increasingly important as a means of securing brands and their reputations, and, enabling consumers to identify genuine products and protect themselves from the ever-increasing rise in fakes.