Rémy Martin to launch NFC-protected bottle in China

Rémy Martin is turning to a near-field communication (NFC) tag to engage with customers and fight counterfeiting.

The premium cognac manufacturer says the tag - supplied by Selinko - will allow consumer to check the authenticity of bottles of its Club brand and will also detect when a bottle has been opened. After downloading an app for their smartphone, a would-be purchaser can tap the top of the "connected bottle" and will know instantly whether it is genuine and sealed.

The protected bottles of Rémy Martin Club - which sell for around $100 each in China - will be rolled out initially in some selected night clubs and eventually feature on bottles sold across the country.

Selinko and Rémy Martin say that consumers using the app will be eligible to earn points towards the company's engagement programme, which includes rewards and special offers.

"As the world is becoming connected, our consumers are expecting their favourite brands to do more than deliver the finest spirit," said Augustin Depardon, Rémy Martin Executive Director.

"They want to have a direct connection with these brands, and a direct engagement," he added.

Rémy Martin is not the first cognac producer to turn to digital technology to defend its brand but seems to have gone a step further than its rivals.

In 2012 for example, Hennessy launched an iPhone and iPad app to help customers identify counterfeit bottles of its VSOP range, but this focused on visually looking for the various brand and security features on the bottle such as logo, holograms and engravings. It no longer appears to be listed in the App Store.

China focus

China has become a hot spot for counterfeit wines and spirits, fuelled by an increasingly affluent population with an appetite for premium brands, both foreign and domestic. In recent years, their activities have shifted from high-end brands to mid-range brands that are becoming popular with the Chinese middle classes.

The criminals behind the trade are constantly refining their techniques so that even experts can find it difficult to tell genuine and fake, and this is driving demand for technological features to assist authentication.

The state-owned Xinhua news agency reported in March that police in Guangdong province had seized more than 700 bottles of premium beverage brands - including Rémy Martin, Louis XIII and Hennessy cognac as well as Chinese wine - worth more than $1m at retail prices.

Counterfeiting at this scale eats into company's sales and damages the reputation of genuine products, while each bottle that reaches consumers places them at risk of injury.

For Selinko, the latest deal builds on its earlier deals with beverage manufacturers for the use of NFC-based 'smart bottles' for anti-counterfeit purposes and customer engagement.

In 2013 the company started working with Bordeaux-based winemaker Château Le Pin, and since then has added additional clients including Burgundy producer Domaine Geantet-Pansiot and Spain's Bodegas Toro Albalá, amongst others.

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