Underground criminals producing counterfeit goods have become alarmingly good at replicating manufacturers’ branding and are infiltrating the market. That’s a significant problem for both manufacturers and consumers, and the scale of the issue is rising.
Counterfeit products can present terrifying dangers. These falsified products are then made to look authentic thanks to replicated labelling that appears almost indecipherable to the branding of genuine products.
The trade in counterfeit and pirated goods now accounts for 3% of all international business, worth $509billion. Moreover, alarmingly, the most recent EU Customs report revealed that of all border seizures of counterfeit goods in 2018, 34% had the potential to harm consumers.
Along with food and alcohol, there are many other industries vulnerable to imitation. According to the European Alliance for Access to Safe Medicines, approximately 62% of medicines bought online are illegal. This figure is consistently growing at an alarming rate, which means brands need to think fast to tackle the issue. The introduction of stricter regulations, such as unique device identification (UDI) code, imposed by the European Union’s Medical Device Regulation, which is coming into effect in May 2020, is a big step towards combatting counterfeit products being sold within the EU. However, a complex problem also requires a sophisticated resolution.
The good news is that the technology is out there to help manufacturers tackle these challenges posed by counterfeiters. Bart Vansteenkiste, Global Life Sciences Sector Development Manager at Domino Printing Sciences plc, explains the different areas of packaging that are under threat by counterfeiters and how to avoid them.
Battling counterfeit criminals depends on efficient coding and marking of your product and packaging that guarantees good readability at every stage in the supply chain; resilient coding that can be read by all parties. The first step to managing counterfeits is to ensure the quality of the product, starting with the appearance of all print, including the date and traceability coding. Modern coding technology makes it easy to apply traceability codes such as UDI’s onto a vast range of materials, without delaying the production speeds that are so vital to your bottom line.
Point of Sale (POS) packaging is often used to help a product stand out on the supermarket shelf; but could it also help tackle counterfeit crime? Perhaps. Counterfeit criminals are unlikely to replicate secondary or tertiary packaging. It means secondary packaging is not just a vehicle for asserting brand identity, but a means of reassuring the customer about product authenticity.
Adding smartphone-readable codes to product packaging is cost-effective and easy to achieve. It also provides a vehicle for verifying the authenticity of your products. A simple scan with a smartphone could drive consumers to a website to prove the provenance of a product. To elaborate: while counterfeit criminals could easily add QR codes of their own to fake medical products, they wouldn’t be able to create a coding system that indexed your products and drove consumers to an official website. That would require hacking your entire information infrastructure. As a secondary benefit, smartphone-readable codes give brands a new and highly personal way of building a relationship with customers.
GS1 data tags are becoming used widely in the healthcare sector as they allow users to pull much more data from the same code; a means to improve the quality and safety of care not just for the consumer, but also the brand owner. Once the end-user scans the tag, an alert can be sent to the original brand owner if copied packaging is in use, which allows them to identify when and where fakes are circulating, enabling them to take action.
The counterfeit problem is growing in severity principally due to technology that has made it cheaper and easier for criminals to replicate a manufacturer’s branded labelling. A further barrier to imitation is to invest in premium labelling that is much harder for criminals to imitate convincingly, such as textured labelling.
Tamper-proof packaging is usually implemented on medical packaging, and similar techniques can be used to deter tampering on pharmaceutical products. The combination of tamper evidence sealing and authentication by means of the unique number in the barcode, is the best way to provide close to watertight proof of the trustworthiness of your products both for you the manufacturer and for the patients.
In today’s marketplace, supply chain driven efficiencies demand higher productivity so it’s imperative that the coding and marking solution doesn’t delay the speed of production. Coding, marking and labelling technology has a significant role to play in the production process of countless goods, and these are examples of ways in which brands can adapt their printing processes to help tackle the evolving challenges created by counterfeiters.