Normal shopper behaviour – whether in-store or online – is as simple as: see the brand I want, pay for it, receive the brand I want. And while that may happen most of the time, what you see is not always what you get – instead, you may get a counterfeit product!
How significant is this problem? Estimates vary widely, but we’re talking North of $500 million a year – that’s half a billion dollars! And growing…
“Not my problem”, you may say. “It happens to other companies’ products”, you may say. Well, yes. Until it doesn’t.
Pharmaceutical A Deadly Target
In some industries, receiving a counterfeit good is bad, but not necessarily dangerous. Buying a counterfeit ‘branded’ shoe, or electronics, or luggage, for example, means the quality won’t be up to scratch – but this is not likely to seriously harm the consumer. Counterfeit food or drink, however, can harm the consumer – sometimes gravely.
But Pharmaceutical is an industry in which counterfeit goods can do real, deadly harm to consumers, on a wide scale. If the purchased ‘authentic drug’ contains harmful ingredients, all those consumed will harm the health of those people, potentially killing many of them. If the purchased item doesn’t contain the correct (or any!) dose of the active ingredients, the lack of these ingredients means the condition for which they were prescribed goes untreated, or under-treated, again with potential large-scale deadly effects.
Counterfeit Products Hurt Your Business
For a manufacturer trying to build a brand and business, the effects of counterfeit goods being sold as yours can be significant. Firstly, your customers buy what they think is your product and brand, but pay the counterfeiter – so you lose out on the revenue and profits you need to build your business.
Secondly, the bad events which follow hurt the reputation of your brand, with potentially long-term effects.
Retailers too can be hurt: if it’s known that a particular retailer is vulnerable to selling counterfeit goods, consumers may choose to shop elsewhere, where they trust they’ll be buying the real deal.
Packaging To The Rescue
In addition to law enforcement, there are defences against counterfeit products – and one of the key defences is Packaging. Anti-counterfeit packaging methods can range from simple to elaborate, and include:
- Technologies which allow instant visual authentication, for example, multi-colour and colour-shift inks, embossing and holographic devices.
- Intricate packaging design and manufacture (which includes consistent designs, colours, print quality, logos, unusual shapes, etc.) can also be a barrier to counterfeiters. If it’s difficult and costly to replicate, they many just choose to not bother with your brand.
- Tamper-evident packaging enables consumers to instantly recognise if the product has been altered or interfered with. Common examples of these are a security seal or label.
- Modifying your primary packaging to make it extremely difficult to refill your original container with counterfeit product.
- Smartphones can be used by consumers to authenticate a product using QR or 2D codes printed on the packaging.
- Packaging can be personalised or customised. For example, a new foil decorating technique makes it economical to apply to even short runs of packaging, which makes it harder for counterfeiters to easily copy.
- Track-and-trace systems which show the history and path through the value chain, from the purchase of raw materials all the way through to the purchase by the consumer. Given the life-and-death stakes in the Pharmaceutical industry, this is a methodology of particular interest to medical-field companies.
- Labelling and serialisation is another system of particular interest to the Pharmaceutical industry, one which is being driven by the introduction of the EU Falsified Medicines Directive. Also, there’s a system being developed which enables each and every item of the same product to have its own unique bar code, which can be verified as original throughout the value chain.
- Hidden technologies which require specialist equipment to reveal them. Examples of these are invisible UV-ink stamps, microscopic tagging and micro text printed onto your product.
- Biological markers (including DNA!) provide an unseen level of authentication and can be identified only using laboratory equipment.
Each of the above examples can be used in isolation; each one introduced provides you with greater protection. The best solution is one which uses a number of these – the more the better.
As a supplier of packaging equipment from a diverse range of principals, we’re on top of the changes that are coming. If you’d like to discuss your packaging future (or current requirements), please contact us – we’d love to help you!