Food recalls in the U.S. have increased fourfold in the past five years, according to the “Brand Protection and Product Traceability 2016 Report” produced by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies. Another 7% of products in grocery stores contain fake ingredients. In addition to the health problems that tainted food can cause consumers, and the damage to the brands’ and retailers’ reputations, a food recall can cost a food company $10 million or more in direct costs, business interruption and lost sales.

In 2016, Interpol tallied a total of 11,000 tons of counterfeit and toxic food seized by police agencies worldwide. At the top of the list were Italian olives painted with copper sulfate solution, Sudanese sugar cut with fertilizer and hundreds of thousands of gallons of fake alcoholic drinks.

Certain foods are more susceptible to counterfeiters than others. Olive oil, honey, fish, vinegars and coffee are commonly faked. Packaging suppliers are solving this problem using serialization, brand-strengthening packaging and shopper assurance solutions. Packaging professionals will be able to see these innovations and more at PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2017 (Las Vegas Convention Center; Sept. 25–27).

Can I get your (serial) number?

“Consumers are seeking more information about the products they use,” says Mark Beauregard, vice president of global market development at Matthews Marking Systems (; booth #C-3632). Food and beverage companies are responding by including more information about product benefits on packaging, and by including serial numbers that serve both customers and brand managers.

Serialization offers benefits to both low- and high-value food and beverage suppliers that want to protect their products and reputation. Items with a higher market value are more susceptible to counterfeiting and demand more security. And when a product moves to mass market, serialization becomes necessary to track and store large amounts of data throughout the supply chain. Sometimes a manufacturer may want to track a product, but the retailer does not. “When products include serial codes for consumers, brand managers can track a product’s life cycle in real time,” Beauregard explains.

For example, South African fried chicken line Hungry Lion launched The Lucky Bucket, a mobile campaign designed to drive engagement and reach consumers in order to learn more about customer habits.  Consumers participated by keeping an eye out for “lucky buckets” of chicken with a mobile code that would earn them prizes and coupons. Throughout the campaign, Hungry Lion received instant analytics that gauged the redemption of coupons down to the store level. Promotional campaigns using serialized codes that connect to cell phones are popular in Africa and provide both demographic data and anti-counterfeiting benefits.

“In the pharmaceutical industry, serialization is vital because pharmaceutical products are even more prone to counterfeiting,” Beauregard says. “It’s not just about getting a product from point A to point B, but making sure that the product is moving in the right ways.”

Many pharmaceutical products are sold domestically at higher prices than they are internationally. This opens the opportunity for smugglers who sell pharmaceuticals to doctors internationally at a lower price to bring them back to the United States and resell below market value.

In order to track these products effectively, Matthews Marking Systems’ MPERIA® system is a high-performance marking and coding automation platform that can manage marking and coding operations across multiple printers, production lines and packaging locations at a speed of almost 1,000 codes per second. MPERIA interfaces with ERP/WMS systems and databases for automation, accuracy and complete visibility, allowing companies to manage multiple SKU’s. The company’s VIAjet™ L-series prints QR codes, QD codes and human readable data up to 600 dpi and 1,000 prints per second.

Treat your brand

Companies are more willing to invest in pharmaceutical security but are hesitant when it comes to other verticals. “Many brand owners have a hard time cost justifying the implementation of some of these technologies. Having any damaging visibility and publicity is difficult and damaging for the brand,” says Tricia Sime, packaging innovation director at Inland Packaging (; booth #S-6535). “Most companies won’t invest until they’ve had a crisis or someone else in their industry has had a crisis and they see the damage it can cause. Brand owners need to consider the value of their brand name and weigh that against the cost of security options.”

The complications brought by foreign trade are not limited to the pharmaceutical industry. Globalization is one of the biggest influences on consumer goods labeling and the need for anti-counterfeiting technology. As brand owners begin to export beyond Europe to South America and Southeast Asia, they often find that their products don’t reach their intended destinations. This is because many global companies use brokers to oversee their international exports, and brokers sometimes re-route products to higher demand areas to make a greater return.

Another effect of globalization is an increase in consumer demand for foreign goods. For example, customers in China prefer to buy baby formula from the U.S. or Europe rather than China, and they want to be able to authenticate the product. This is because of several high-profile cases of counterfeit or substandard baby formula sold in China.

Beyond the global market, consumers are generally savvier and better informed, and they are taking more control over the products they purchase. They want reassurance that they are getting what they pay for, Sime explains. Brand security measures are not just used for anti-counterfeiting, but to ensure that product quality is maintained, she says.

By working with a packaging provider, brands can take advantage of quality assurance solutions like UV or fluorescent inks, digital watermarking and taggants, small particles in a substrate, and ink or coding that can only be detected by specific readers or devices. Inland Packaging works with customers by discussing pain points and how to prevent them. Some brands may be looking to convey authenticity or quality and others might want to inform customers about their products.

Signed, sealed, delivered

When increasing security, brands are not limited to printed features like watermarks and codes. Those looking for unique ways to assure customers of a product’s legitimacy can turn to other methods of tamper evidence. For example, Fords Packaging Systems Ltd. (; booth #S-5958) has seen a heightened demand for its foil closures and sealing systems.

Historically, such closures have been popular among dairy and beverage manufacturers, but Fords Packaging’s products are increasingly popular with food, personal care and pharmaceutical products as well, says Duncan Harris, commercial director at Fords. Specifically in Canada and the U.S., foil seals are in demand because they are a low-cost, easy-opening solution that gives customers a sense of security and brands an opportunity for additional marketing.

“We find that in worldwide markets consumers trust the foil seal. They trust that if they see an intact foil seal when they remove the over cap, the product is good,” Harris says. “We have customers that specify that foil seal for consumer confidence even when they have the option of a screwcap.”

Hermetic foil seals offer a unique combination of benefits that start with functionality but also include brand enhancements such as clever designs and embossed company logos on seals. Fords Packaging’s foil seals have applications on plastics, glass and metal for beverage, dairy, food, personal care and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Find it at PACK EXPO Las Vegas

Counterfeiting is predicted to increase 3% per year worldwide over the next five years, leading to a 12.8-16% compound annual growth rate in the anti-counterfeiting market. As brand security continues to be a challenge, keeping consumer trust is important. One statistic says it all: More than 20% of consumers report they would not purchase any products from a company suffering a food recall.

Attendees at PACK EXPO LAS Vegas 2017 (co-located with Healthcare Packaging EXPO) will have the chance to learn about and view firsthand security-heightening solutions. More than 2,000 exhibitors will offer solutions to improve product safety and reputation. To register, visit





PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, represents more than 800 North American manufacturers and suppliers of equipment, components and materials as well as providers of related equipment and services to the packaging and processing industry. We work to connect consumer goods companies with manufacturing solutions through the PACK EXPO portfolio of trade shows, leading trade media and a wide range of resources to empower our members. PMMI Media Group connects manufacturers to the latest solutions, trends and innovations in packaging and processing year-round. PMMI Business Drivers assist members in pursuing operational excellence through workforce development initiatives.

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