How Food and Beverage Companies Can Protect Their Brands with Counterfeit-Proof Labels

ELN, Food and Beverage

food and beverage companies
Food and beverage companies can protect themselves and their consumers by using counterfeit-proof tags.
Image source: Flickr user aolin

Holding a bag, a person walks out of a store followed by drawn-out beeping sounds. Perhaps a cashier forgot to remove clothing tags on items the individual already purchased or maybe he had hoped to steal something. Either way, the alarm and tag serve as protection against theft, a system that is highly developed for high-value goods like clothing or electronics but has “not found widespread application in the [food and beverage] industry.1 Yet tampering with food, also known as food fraud, has plagued the food and beverage industry “throughout history” and estimates suggest that $10 billion to $15 billion is lost globally due to fraud.2

For food and beverage companies, food fraud can be especially devastating after brands spend hundreds of millions on marketing, recipe development and design, efforts that can be erased after a single incidence of intentional contamination.3 To protect brand integrity and the safety of products, more food and beverage companies are realizing that investment in security or counterfeit-proof labels is essential for protecting both their companies and consumers. With certain luxury food items (i.e., caviar, truffles, foie gras, specific wines and spirits), efforts to protect brand integrity and provide a method for consumers to verify the authenticity of their purchased items are also important.4

Custom Food Labels Inspired by Science

Food labels can take on many forms including clear-on-clear no-label looks, scanning-based labels and resealable technologies.5 But food and beverage companies can use more novel techniques for protecting their brands, and the use of electronic lab notebooks enables companies to nurture these ideas by providing a secure digital space in which individuals can collaborate and that is easily searchable. Following are two specific ways in which food and beverage companies might improve the branding of their products:

Smart Ink Technologies: A well-known ink-based technology is thermochromic inks, which change color when exposed to heat.6 With the help of electronic lab notebooks, food and beverage companies can consider when, how and on what products to use this type of ink. Part of the resistance to the widespread use of anti-counterfeit labels on food is simple misinformation. By presenting information and ideas in a single database, food and beverage product developers and marketers can come together in a single format to determine how best to use thermochromic inks. For example, a product that requires refrigeration could be left at room temperature, thus compromising its safety. Thermochromic inks on food labels could identify this problem immediately and can also be used by brands as a signal that a product is “authentic.” Besides thermochromic inks, food and beverage companies can also consider the use of invisible inks that are revealed only under certain light sources. Regardless of the specific method a food and beverage company chooses to employ, collect and keep track of these ideas, this activity is an essential component of product innovation and is most easily done with an electronic lab notebook.

Taggants: Taggants are “covert, heat-resistant and [often] ‘edible bar codes’” that “are like a fingerprint” to ensure product authentication.7 In this case, electronic laboratory notebooks can similarly serve as a means to experiment with different chemicals to determine the one that is less likely to interfere with the tastes of food and beverage products—and might carry information about the product. For example, tagging a specific batch of food and beverage items with a specific chemical, can be linked to information about its manufacturing date, plant location, etc., and this information itself can be maintained and stored in an electronic lab notebook.

As technological innovations become more affordable to implement, the demand for labels that ensure the authenticity of products will increase. But beyond helping consumers identify fake food and beverage items, these technologies can help brands to protect themselves against intentional or inadvertent contamination. To determine how else food and beverage companies can use electronic lab notebooks such as the BIOVIA Notebook, please contact us today.

  1. “Food Packaging: Principles and Practice,” 2006, http://bit.ly/23fVcas
  2. “Food Fraud and ‘Economically Motivated Adulteration’ of Food and Food Ingredients,” January 10, 2014, https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43358.pdf
  3. “Assessing the Risk of Intentional Contamination,” December 28, 2010, http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/12/assessing-the-risk-of-intentional-contamination/#.VoWUYxGxLcc
  4. “Security/Tamper Resistant/Anti-Counterfeiting labels,” “http://www.idimages.com/documents/Tamperprooflabels1212142.pdf
  5. “Custom Food Labels,” http://label.averydennison.com/en/home/label-solutions/food-labels.html
  6. “Hot or Not,” April 1, 2007, http://www.packageprinting.com/article/smart-packaging-thermochromic-inks-53226/
  7. “Taggants for Product Authentication & Brand Protection,” http://www.trutags.com/taggant-for-brand-protection/

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