Counterfeiting is growing at a rate of around 3 per cent a year – and brand owners are fighting back with increasing investment in track-and-trace and authentication technologies.
The latest brand protection and product traceability market report from PMMI says over the next five years the global market will grow from around 13 to 16 per cent every year, outpacing the background growth in the food, beverage and pharma industries by two- to three-fold.
"Globalization is creating an increasingly complex, continuously growing supply chain," notes PMMI. "With more suppliers and more products coming from different countries, it is critical to identify, capture and share accurate product information. In this environment, counterfeiting has become a growing challenge."
In the food and beverage sector legislation such as the US Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is driving the adoption of track-and-trace technologies, while in pharma legislation requiring packs to have unique identifiers on each pack in the US, Europe and elsewhere is pushing adoption of serialization.
"Brand manufacturers are increasingly focused on multi-layered coding and marking solutions that are fully integrated through the entire supply chain, right through, and up to, disposal," says the report.
That layered approach typically involves combining overt technologies such as barcodes, holograms and colour-shifting inks with covert elements – like taggants, UV/infrared/fluorescent inks and radiofrequency identification (RFID).
The report predicts that barcodes will continue to anchor track-and-trace technologies in the coming years, and there will be a push towards small or even invisible barcode technology as part of desire for "uncluttered packaging."
Meanwhile, smart labels and tags will be adopted in some sectors for retail and inventory – notably perishable foods – while smart 'sensing' labels will be increasingly used across food, beverage and pharma. RFID use is already well-established in pharma but is expected to grow quickly in food/beverage to aid product audit trails.
Product authentication and interaction will increasingly be through the use of smartphone apps, says the report, which estimates that 9 per cent of US consumers and 14 per cent or more of consumers in Europe and other parts of the world routinely scanning QR codes on products and packaging.
Companies surveyed in the report identified two particular 'weak points' in the supply chain, when ingredients/products enter and leave manufacturing facilities.
"It is of paramount importance that all involved in the packaging and processing industry make continued efforts to maintain tracking control in order to prevent counterfeiting and aid in product recall," says Paula Feldman, director of business intelligence at PMMI.
"With North America alone accounting for 50 per cent of the total growth of the global anti-counterfeit food packaging market in 2014, it is increasingly important that we as an industry continue to take the necessary action to protect our brands, as well as those around the globe."