When consumers unwittingly consume counterfeit food, the consequences can be life-threatening. Fake food still reaches store shelves despite a company’s best efforts to manufacture safe products, so the need for better anti-counterfeit solutions is imperative.
At a minimum, food and beverage companies must perform due diligence to protect consumers. Otherwise, people may assume that the brand doesn’t care about health and safety, which only damages a business’s reputation in the long run. Responsible brand owners certainly go above and beyond regulatory mandates to ensure that legitimate goods reach consumers. Yet, counterfeiters are still finding novel ways to fool people into believing fake food is genuine. The challenge moving forward will be how to develop and implement an ecosystem of counterfeit protections to put consumers at ease and maintain brand strength.
What’s the impact of a strong brand in the food and beverage industry?
Brand power in the food and beverage industry is vital to profitability and maintaining market share. After all, consumers have many alternative items from which to choose, so food and beverage brands rely upon giving consumers a consistent – and safe – eating experience, whether it’s a new flavor or a seasonal ingredient. Food and beverage items are essentially experiential in nature, and consumers develop strong emotional attachments and associations with the brands they come to trust.
As a quick example, let’s say that a gourmet chocolatier decides to release a holiday edition for its top-selling fudge bars; however, what happens when a competitor decides to do the same? A consumer must determine which chocolate treat will taste better and can only arrive at that conclusion based on prior experience with the brand. The impetus is based on trust. Without it, consumers will simply choose a different product, especially if a specific business keeps getting negative publicity regarding product safety.
Most counterfeited food brands and products
Unfortunately, some food brands and products are the victims of counterfeiting more so than others. Still, the fact of the matter is this: any famous brand can be counterfeited if the only protections are visible and overt. A recent case of unsafe, misbranded baby formula in the U.S. is a prime example of what companies must overcome. Con artists don’t necessarily need to fabricate illicit food since infringing upon a well-regarded brand can be just as profitable too. Overall, the most counterfeited food and beverages worldwide include beef, fish, coffee, honey, pepper, and olive oil – the majority of which come from the same country, China. Even pet food is counterfeited.
Countries with the most counterfeits
Globally, the primary producer of counterfeit food is China, and it’s easy to find information online about the nation’s less-than-stellar reputation for counterfeiting. In 2008 alone, thousands of infants were hospitalized in China after consuming baby formula adulterated with melamine. Within China, the market for all types of counterfeit products is lucrative for those who are willing to ply their illegal trade. By one account, as much as 80 percent of all counterfeit items worldwide originate from mainland China, and counterfeit food is no different.
What are the risks of counterfeited food?
Indeed, the main risk with counterfeit food boils down to the threat to public health and safety. If people with an allergy consume fraudulent food, they can die or suffer life-long debilitations. Unsafe food ingredients may also cause chronic disease or even cancer if the contaminant is a known carcinogen. Nevertheless, there are additional risks brands must consider as well to create a well-rounded ecosystem of anti-counterfeit solutions to safeguard the food supply chain.
Lawsuits and damage to the brand’s reputation occur when counterfeiting continues unabated. If the brand doesn’t address the concerns promptly, it may be negligent in a court of law. Without a doubt, the cost to remediate these cases can be excessive in a worst-case scenario. Not only that, but consumers may also start to avoid a specific company altogether if they believe it doesn’t care about public helth and safety.
One example shows how pervasive the counterfeit food problem really is. In 2019, a multi-national anti-counterfeit initiative by Interpol seized 16,000 tons and 33 million liters of fake food. The operation spanned dozens of countries, which proves how pervasive the problem remains. The rise of eCommerce has only made the challenge harder to overcome as misbranded online goods sell for prices far lower than the retail price. More recently, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection confiscated thousands of pounds of olives, Mooncakes, and clams in August 2022, showing that counterfeiting remains widespread despite the solutions currently deployed.
What are the risks of current anti-counterfeit solutions?
Sophisticated, state-of-the-art anti-counterfeit tech is available, yet many brands still rely on outdated, overt identifiers like holograms. The issue is that these markings can be faked, altered, or removed from packaging, thus making it impossible for consumers to tell which products are genuine and which are counterfeits. It’s the consumer who must manually verify the packaging to see if they’re about to eat something safe, and the only way to accomplish that is to trust the visible anti-counterfeit protections.
So, with that shortcoming in mind, we developed a range of anti-counterfeit solutions to ensure that consumers can trust the brands they enjoy most. By deploying Cryptoglyph, brand owners can begin to implement an ecosystem of anti-counterfeit solutions to suit any scenario.
Cryptoglyph – Packaging and Label Protection
AlpVision’s powerful anti-counterfeit tech – Cryptoglyph – excels at securing packaging and labeling for food and beverages. Originally developed in 2001, Cryptoglyph used to work by punching small holes with standard ink over a package’s surface. These tiny punctures were invisible to the naked eye, and counterfeiters had no way to copy them. To this day, Cryptoglyph remains a one-of-a-kind anti-counterfeit defense since counterfeiters cannot replicate the protection.
We’ve built upon Cryptoglyph as a powerful anti-counterfeit solution that gives food and beverage brands a more reliable way to verify a product’s authenticity. Whereas other solutions rely on human interpretation, our systems use a smartphone app for fast and accurate verification.
With AlpVision, you can impart Cryptoglyphs in the varnish layer on the packaging, or you can extend the solution to complement additional safeguards, such as QR codes and matrix codes. The risk of counterfeiting drops significantly with an ecosystem of protections because criminals have no access to Cryptoglyph’s underlying technology.
Cryptoglyph is a robust solution, yet you can develop an even stronger system when you combine it with visible safeguards like QR codes or matrix codes. These markings can contain Cryptoglyphs unbeknownst to counterfeiters and make it easier to verify authentic food and beverage items. That way, you will benefit from an additional layer of anti-counterfeit security. The only question is how to integrate everything into a holistic ecosystem of protection.
If you’d like to read more about which approach would work best for your organization,Download our latest white paper for details on deploying Cryptoglyph