Technology used to fight back against fakes

5th October, 2015 by Ron Emler

Counterfeit wines and spirits are big business from Glasgow to Guangdong, and the fakers are not just targeting premium brands such as top of the range Cognacs and rare vintages of first growth clarets – commodity wines such as Jacob’s Creek and Blossom Hill have been counterfeited.

Diageo’s prototype “smart” bottle

Spirits Europe said in a report published last year: “Counterfeit spirit drinks pose a serious health threat by providing consumers with inferior or even toxic products. Furthermore, these practices damage not only our industry, but also government revenues, which miss out on excise and other duties that officially traded products generate. To take the example of China, our industry estimates that a quarter of products sold as imported spirits are actually fakes.

“The most prevalent form of counterfeiting is refilling authentic bottles with inferior products. In addition, so-called look-alikes started to appear on the market – imitations of European spirits brands and/or Geographical Indications, which are not identical copies but very similar to the original. Both practices deceive the consumer and pose a major health threat due to the dubious conditions under which these products are produced.”

Although no producers are willing to reveal what faking costs them, The problem is huge. Earlier this year Ivan Menezes, Diageo’s chief executive, said he believed that half of all the alcohol consumed in parts of Africa was illicit. Most of that is traditional moonshine but brand faking is rising.

Paul Varga, chief executive of Brown Forman, said a couple of years ago that “a third of the world’s alcohol comes from what we call illicit production” and in Pernod Ricard’s annual report this year, the group’s General Counsel, Ian Fitzsimons, reported that “the counterfeit business is booming”.

Until recently producers tried to keep faking out of the public eye for fear of damaging the reputation of their brands, especially if the fakes were a threat to health, which often they are. But now they are fighting back with new technology that allows the consumer to detect at the point of sale whether a bottle is genuine and if it has been opened previously.

And Pernod Ricard can now track an individual bottle from the production warehouse to the retailer’s shelf and find out where in the distribution chain any tampering might have taken place.

“No longer are we reluctant to tell the consumer about counterfeiting,” says Mathieu Prot, Pernod Ricard’s Group Director of Intellectual Property, the French company’s head fraud fighter.

Technology used to fight back against fakes

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