Keeping Beverage Safe And Secure With Coding And Marking

Monday, October 1st, 2018

Viktor Puzakov, Global Marketing Manager at Videojet Technologies, discusses product safety and security concerns in the beverage industry and how smart, overt and covert coding techniques are enabling manufacturers to overcome them.

Beverage, like all industries that manufacture products destined for human consumption, is officially regulated, controlled and scrutinised in terms of product quality and safety. Beyond that, the quality of a brand’s market offering is under constant scrutiny by the public, which has an increasingly loud and well-heard voice on social media platforms. Dissatisfaction – or worse, product safety issues – will quickly go viral before potentially being picked up by the media, causing a damaging and costly impact on sales and PR. More and more brands must also contend with counterfeiting – which could cause the same business impacts, as customers believe they have poor quality, but genuine products. Of course, these impacts are also in addition to any operating revenue being lost to counterfeiters.

When it comes to safety, traceability is a key element facilitated by coding and marking, and is particularly important in an age where a product recall can have a significant impact on reputation. According to the International Standards Organization (ISO), product traceability means “the ability to trace the history, application or location of an item or activity by means of recorded identification”. This feature allows the final consumer and the manufacturer to know where the supplies have come from and the various stages a product has undergone on its journey to the retail supply chain. It also allows products from a suspect batch to be identified and recalled quickly and efficiently. Inkjet, laser and thermal transfer overprinters (TTO) can be used for printing bar and matrix codes for product traceability. The production line speed, resolution and type and colour of substrate will dictate what technology is best to be employed, and this is easily determined through working with an expert provider of coding and marking solutions.


Fighting Fakers With Smart Coding

Although not limited to alcohol, it is often reported as a keen target for counterfeiters for a number of socioeconomic reasons. In 2017, Europol seized 26.4 million litres of counterfeit alcohol , and the UK’s Food Standards Agency explicitly includes poor quality packaging and labelling as part of its four ‘Ps’ in recognising counterfeit alcohol. As a result, packaging anti-counterfeiting measures, such as smart, overt and covert coding are becoming an important weapon against the fakers.

Smart coding enhances a basic lot or batch code by altering and verifying specific characters within it using algorithmic software. By simply removing the centre dot of ink from an ‘X’, for example, you make your codes far more difficult for unauthorised parties to replicate.

Overt coding, such as laser marked codes, are permanent and are therefore near impossible to remove by third parties, while covert codes are completely concealed to all but authorised distribution partners. Both Ultraviolet (UV) and Infrared (IR) inks can be applied using Continuous Inkjet or Thermal Inkjet technology. These covert codes are then read using available vision technologies.

At the shipping case level, large character inkjet marking (LCM) is able to print high quality images and codes – such as bar codes – directly onto the case. When combined with the appropriate software, when a bar code is scanned by an authorised retailer, receipt information is electronically recorded. The addition of smart codes throughout the process – from pack level through to shipping case – means products can be verified without the need to open the case itself. All of the information is stored within this final code. This aggregation process is a key element to securing supply chains and adding much needed visibility.

The beverage industry must work in a smart manner to keep up with the threats to product safety and security it faces. Coding and marking will be a critical component in making sure products are traceable and sufficiently difficult for counterfeiters to convincingly copy. The benefits of implementing smart coding solutions go beyond minimising the risk of profit losses but help beverage producers to ensure that they are safeguarding the wellbeing of those that matter most – the consumers buying their products.


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