technology
The problem with counterfeit products is that it is possible to replicate packaging. Enhancement in traceability is a solution — QR codes, monograms, labels, and barcodes. Photo PSA

The packaging industry has reached an alarming situation where on the one hand new technology facilitates an improved consumer experience and on the other, it enables counterfeiters to make near replicas of a product. The concerns have now reached a point where the active participation of the provider and the consumer attains much more significance, say industry stakeholders.

Packaging machine OEMs are experimenting with advanced technology to tackle this problem. With efficiency and quality assuming higher significance than ever before, the packaging industry is now focusing on scalable, high-performance automation solutions to deal with counterfeits.

Sudeep Goenka, director of Goldiee Group, a spice maker, said, “Awareness must be created among the consumers as well as the solution providers. The problem with counterfeit products is that it is possible to replicate packaging. Enhancement in traceability is a solution — QR codes, monograms, labels, and barcodes.”

Counterfeit products are a huge problem, especially for the food and pharma industries as it directly affects human health. In July, Adani-Wilmar filed a police complaint in Uttar Pradesh’s Gautam Budhnagar district against a B2B platform for allegedly distributing duplicate products under its Fortune brand that sells mustard and refined soybean oils. An in-depth examination of the reported products revealed significant mismatches in batch code details, fake QR codes, and different packaging materials, confirming the presence of counterfeit products, media reports said.

technology
Adani-Wilmar group expressed concern for the fake products circulating in the market

The Hindu reported about counterfeit medicines of leading manufacturers such as Sun Pharmaceutical, Alkem, Cipla, Glenmark, GSK, Abbott, Novartis, Dr. Reddy’s and Aristo. The fake drugs that included Augmentin, Pan-D, Pantocid DSR, Urimax-D, Clavam were seized from unlicensed premises in Kolkata in August.

In June, five people were arrested for allegedly making and selling counterfeit dairy products of Amul. Police recovered materials that included ghee, butter, and packaging items from Noida Sector 70, media reports said.

Sanjay Gupta, vice-president of FMCG conglomerate DS Group, which has a presence in food and beverage, confectionery, hospitality, agri, luxury retail, etc, said reacting when counterfeit products are found is of little value.

Industry professionals need to act beforehand to influence a better brand impact – safeguarding the trust of the consumer. A counterfeit department needs to be established in all segments of the industry. It has to be functional at every step, right from transit to when the product reaches the end consumer,” Gupta said.

An advanced ecosystem to prevent counterfeits is the need of the hour, said Sanket Randive, head of corporate quality assurance of leading multinational Marico. “A behavioral change needs to be implemented. The option of tracing the product by scanning a QR or a bar code has been there for ages. Being a consumer myself, I don’t scan the codes. If I purchase a pack of Surf, I am simply assured that I have a pack of Surf when needed. That would need to change. The profit margins dwindle due to counterfeits and delayed reaction adds to the waste of time and money.”

Counterfeit goods are made widely in Russia, North Korea, Taiwan, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Turkey is responsible for 3.3% of the world’s counterfeit goods, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Some counterfeits are allegedly produced in the same factory that produces the original, authentic product, using inferior materials.

A United States Senate Committee on Armed Services report regarding counterfeit electronic parts in the defense supply chain highlighted in an investigation in March 2011 that 1,800 cases of suspected counterfeit components were in use in over one million individual products”. A 2012 report found that counterfeit parts came overwhelmingly from China.

According to Yogesh Kapur, executive vice-president of the holography business of Noida-based packaging giant Uflex, technology can be the answer.

The company, Kapur says, provides services and solutions by leveraging the best technology, in-house production, and an R&D division for each of UFlex’s processes. India is becoming a preferred supplier for global buyers of products, including anti-counterfeiting and brand-building solutions, he said.

India is at the cusp of growth. From what we can see, a lot of global companies are trying to be a part of it. UFlex is well-positioned to tap this growing market with its country-wide footprint, by providing the latest technology for anti-counterfeiting, and brand recognition,” Kapur said in an interaction with Packaging South Asia.

Global providers, when they come to India, are concerned about their IP because of counterfeiting. This is where UFlex holography anti-counterfeiting and branding solutions come in and ensure that their IP is protected and genuine products reach their (brand owners’) customers.”

In fact, traceability and authentication were the key focus of The Authentication Solutions Providers Association (ASPA) meeting in Delhi in July, where members and all stakeholders gathered to gain first-hand collaborative knowledge of anti-counterfeiting and traceability technologies, solutions, and systems.

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– Naresh Khanna (25 October 2023)

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