The future of communication

13 February 2017

The future of communication

The future of communication

With heightened consumer awareness of counterfeit goods, robust coding and marking systems are more important now than ever. Ensuring that the whole supply chain is secure has focused technical developments and brand communications for everyone connected with brand packaging. Dave Howell investigates the markets involved.

The use of coding and marking systems on products is no longer simply a matter of compliance for brands, but also a key component of brand communication. Over the past five years in particular, consumers have become highly sensitive when purchasing goods, especially from the beauty and pharma sectors, to whether they are purchasing the genuine article.


Pharma authentication


Set up to monitor the market for illegal drugs, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute has released statics that have shown, in one example, that a counterfeit version of a drug made by Phizer was available in 107 countries. GlaxoSmithKline has found similar levels of counterfeiting, and WHO estimates that 1% of all pharma sales in developed countries are counterfeit.

To combat the rising levels of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, WHO has developed its Substandard, Spurious, Falsely labelled, Falsified and Counterfeit (SSFFC) initiative.

“Falsified medical products are manufactured in many different countries and in all regions,” says WHO. “Many countries and the media frequently report successful operations against manufacturers of SSFFC medical products. Some reports refer to large-scale manufacturing and others to small back-street operations. With the availability of tableting machines, ovens, specialist equipment, ingredients and packaging materials, clandestine manufacturing facilities are quick and easy to assemble, and have been discovered in all regions.”

For all brand-owners, moving to more robust authentication methods is a priority. The pharma sector is often the focus for this debate, but other product categories are just as important. Fast-moving consumer goods brands also need to demonstrate authenticity, which is now a core consumer demand. This begins with the packaging that is developed for each product, as this must communicate legitimacy.

Traditional print-based coding is currently adequate, but it must rapidly evolve to keep up with requirements. The luxury market will see these developments first, as will brands in high-value product development. But this will filter down to all brand categories over a very short space of time, as tracking technology becomes more easily integrated into product packaging. A good example here is the recently announced Fix-a-Form label solution from Denny Bros.

Brands in food categories are also seeing a rise in consumer demand for more information. Research by Emerson Electric indicates that nearly 90% of consumers want more data about the food they buy, with new technologies becoming a huge differentiator. 80% of respondents stated that they would be less likely to buy a product from a store that wasn’t using the latest technology to ensure the food was safe and authentic.


Counting counterfeiters


As the US pharma industry prepares itself for DSCSA serialisation – due to come into force by November 2017 – many brand-owners are now looking closely at their systems and the partners they have to deliver on this directive.

“Based on the responses given in a poll of vice-presidents, executive directors and supply chain co-ordinators from over 20 companies, data storage and management, cost of serialisation, packaging and labelling ranked highest among the top challenges surrounding serialisation,” said Pharma IQ, a division of IQPC, in its overview of the sixth Pharma Anti-Counterfeiting & Brand Protection summit, taking place in March. “The same poll showed that over 70% of respondents reported spending over six figures on serialisation per product line, on average.

“When asked about future investments, 38.9% of poll participants declared packaging and labelling technologies to be the field most financially allocated towards.”

The coding and marking industry is driven by the legislative requirements of regions. What is becoming clear is that coding and marking needs to be smarter if it is to thwart counterfeiters in the first instance, but it must also provide brands with strong communication channels to their customers.

The future will see more interactive coding and marking systems that will expand how the supply chain can track and trace individual products from manufacturer to consumer. Brands will begin to use more electronics, including innovation with E Ink displays, for instance, as was recently announced by TEXEN for the cosmetics industry.

“There is a new kind of code that is no longer a code,” Jonathan Jackson of Hive tells Packaging Today. “They are called Pack IDs. Hive calls it the pack passport system: a unique ID on every pack that stays on it for the length of its life – just like a passport stays with you for life. These are not codes, but with a clever pack-ID generator, Hive can work with coding and marking protocols, and enable brands to use their coding and marking machinery to print unique pack IDs.

“There is a growing appetite for packaging to become smart, meaning packs need to have unique pack IDs that allow consumers to connect with them – and gives consumers a reason to do so.”


 Covert operations


Overt systems of coding and marking that have become commonplace are now being joined by more covert systems. One example is the TruTag ingestible Optical Memory (iOM) device: a digital ‘cookie’ that enables the digitisation of the analogue world.

TruTag’s iOM devices are dust-sized particles that can be embedded into the fabric of a product without the need for packaging or labels. They are edible and concealed, made from a well-accepted excipient that is generally recognised as safe by US FDA and that can effectively digitise items for product intelligence, counteracting the $1-trillion global counterfeiting market.

The Daily Wellness Company selected TruTag Technologies to be the solution provider for its line of women’s health products, including FertilityBlend for Women and Asensia.

“TruTag was the obvious choice to partner with for this collaboration,” said Denny Kwock, president of The Daily Wellness Company. “Its solution is absolutely unique, and easily meets our product and cost requirements. Its innovation will be particularly important as we prepare our products to enter the China market, where the demand for women’s health and reproductive health products is growing at an exponential rate.”


Consumer confidence

Brands understand that making closer personal connections with their customers is of paramount importance, and that packaging has a great role to play in this. Traditional coding and marking techniques will continue, as these are clearly understood and have vast support networks of converters to manage them. However, technology is enabling brands to evolve their communication channels further.

Last year, Malibu tested its smart bottle, which used NFC to communicate marketing messages. For brands, this level of market testing is vital. As Markus Wulff, working with digital innovation and the internet of things at Absolut, said, “Launching this NFC pilot enables us to evaluate how consumers react to the technology and determine what improvements we can implement for the next version.”

Some new launches, like Mondelez with its Oreo ‘new flavour’ campaign, and Nestlé’s enhanced KitKat bars for its Breakers Party competition, get consumers ready to use their phones for more interaction and, subsequently, for security and authentication links to their brands.

The use of more printable electronics to deliver to brands coding and marking solutions is rapidly developing. The ubiquitous nature of the smartphone offers an authentication platform that printable systems can’t match. Already, alliances are being made.




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