Tuscan olive oil gets NFC tags for authentication

Italian olive oil producers are turning to near-field communication (NFC) tags to allow customers to authenticate purchases.

The producers - all from the Tuscany region - will use NFC rags supplied by Norway's ThinFilm Electronics in combination with a two-year-old app called iOlive that provides information and tracking for more than 150 extra virgin olive oils.

The brands working with iOlive and ThinFilm that will utilize the SpeedTap tags in their product packaging include Buonamici, La Ranocchiaia, SPO, and Il Cavallino. In addition to allowing genuine oil to be authenticated, the combination of tags and app will also "enhance consumer engagement, and fuel online sales," according to ThinFilm, which says it also hopes to roll out the technology in other olive oil-producing countries.

The SpeedTap tags can be read with the tap of an NFC-enabled smartphone, and the company says each tag is "uniquely identifiable and … virtually impossible to clone." Once tapped, the tag wirelessly communicates with the cloud, enabling brands to connect directly with their customers and instantly deliver authentication messaging, product information, and other relevant content.

Tuscan olive oil has a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) designation from the EU, and as a high quality product is generally expensive and so prone to adulteration with cheaper substitutes such as sunflower or canola oils. Over 267 oil adulteration incidents have been reported to the US Pharmacopeia's Food Fraud Database, with the vast majority occurring over the past three years.

Earlier this year, a massive operation by the Italian authorities resulted in the seizure of 7,000 tonnes of oil that was claimed to be from Tuscany but on analysis was found to be a blend sourced from non-EU countries.

"The olive oil industry is very similar to the wine industry in that each has a rich heritage that is centuries old," said Pietro Barachini, the founder of iOlive and a professional olive oil taster. "But the wine industry has done a much better job of educating customers on how to evaluate, buy and enjoy wine."

"That’s why I created iOlive and began working closely with brands in Tuscany. I believe it will do for olive oil consumers what the leading wine apps have done for wine lovers. And I'm very excited about using Thinfilm's SpeedTap technology to take it to the next level."

Over three million tons annually of olive oil are produced worldwide, with approximately 75 per cent of this being produced in Spain, Italy, and Greece.

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