Tamper Evident Packaging

How to protect your packaging from counterfeit

6 mins

Counterfeiting is one of the biggest challenges faced by consumers and businesses across the globe. The crime of counterfeiting can reduce a brand’s revenue, negatively impact its goodwill and reputation.

More than 86% of brands believe their business is significantly damaged by counterfeiting and managers say they lose between 10-50% of revenue. The effect of counterfeiting is felt in a variety of industries especially in the pharmaceutical, food, and electronics industry. Therefore, it is critical that businesses establish the right strategy with strong anti-counterfeit packaging protection. In this article, we will be exploring how you can protect your packaging from counterfeit crime.

Overt and Covert Techniques

The two approaches to anti-counterfeiting are known as Overt and Covert techniques. The more intricate a brand makes its packaging, the more challenging and costly it will be to counterfeit. So, what is the difference between overt and covert techniques?

  • Overt: Details noticeable to the consumer. This can include tamper-evident labels, embossing, metallics, holographic, or die-cuts to create a unique brand signature that is difficult to copy.
  • Covert: Security elements that are hidden from the consumer, as well as counterfeiters themselves. They are concealed measures typically used for tracking and tracing to make sure products (especially pharmaceuticals) do not fall out of the supply chain. Covert features are considered to be a second line of defence after overt features to provide extra protection. Examples of covert protection include: invisible or UV inks, invisible watermarks, ink taggants and infrared ink.

Using smart packaging: QR Codes

The more traditional packaging solutions have failed to keep up with the counterfeit challenge and so digital or technology-based solutions known as smart packaging seems to be a more reliable solution.

The most common source of counterfeiting is the re-use or re-fill of existing packaging with counterfeit content. All consumer products are often disposed in bins after opening and then these discarded cartons and boxes can end up being a goldmine for counterfeiters who re-use the same packaging and refill it with a lower-quality product. As you can imagine, this is especially dangerous when shipping pharmaceutical products in particular.

This is where smart packaging and QR codes come in. To prevent the re-use of packaging, anti-counterfeit packaging now has serialised or unique digital IDs in the form of QR codes. The advantage of QR codes is that they can be easily scanned via mobile phone and then it informs the consumer about the journey of their product, and whether the product is legitimate. Another advantage is that with QR codes you can choose to display a one-time ID so that when it is scanned, that particular ID is then marked as ‘sold’ on the software. Any scans following that will tell a future consumer that a product was already sold including the details of where and when.

This can be extremely useful for businesses as it provides the ability to identify and record a data of scan’s, false scan reports, and allows them to locate the places where counterfeit products are in circulation. QR codes also help to reassure customers that the product they are purchasing has not been replicated or re-used.


Pharmaceutical packaging

Using tamper-evident packaging

In order for consumers to recognise the packaging has been opened without authorisation, the packaging must be visibly and irreversibly damaged when first opened. This is why safety labels such as tamper-evident labels and seal stickers are so crucial as they clearly show whether the packaging has been tampered with. Some packaging examples we suggest using at Swiftpak include:

  • Security Labels: provide evidence of tampering through their permanent peel-and-stick adhesive backing. If someone were to peel back the label, the messaging will be left behind on the package to warn the receiver the packaging has been tampered with.
  • Tamper Evident Tape: creates a permanent bond with the carton, creating a tamper-evident seal so that if it were to be taken off, the damage will be clearly visible. For example, with Tamper-evident void tape, removal will cause it to self-destruct leaving behind a permanent adhesive layer with a message. This could be ‘VOID’ or ‘OPENED’ which are both strong indicators for the receiver to take action.
  • Gummed Paper Tape Recyclable, and available with fibre reinforcement to give maximum security.
  • Tamper-Evident Cartons: especially good for pharmaceutical products, tamper-evident cartons provide that extra layer of security, so that they are impossible to open without causing damage.
  • Bespoke packaging: Bespoke packaging is also a great security solution as it can be made so that you can only get to the product by damaging the box, so it is clear when it has been tampered with.
  • Holograms: A major component of anti-counterfeit packaging due to them being immensely difficult to replicate. So, Hologram techniques can be used to indicate authenticity. By using wear and tear on the hologram is another way to indicate rough handing or incorrect storage.
  • Shrink bands: Shrink brands can be applied around the cap, beck, or cover of a container using a heat gun. These can help indicate tampering during the delivery process if they are removed or damaged.

Securing global protection

To restrict others from re-selling your products without permission, you should consider securing a patent, trademark, or copyright and register them in other countries where counterfeit products may appear.

If your ownership rights do not extend globally, there may be nothing stopping people in other countries from counterfeiting your product. Security Experts recommend multilayering or combining overt and covert elements including tracking and authentication, particularly if you work in a pharmaceutical company where it is more high-risk if counterfeit products find their way into the supply chain.

Anti-counterfeit packaging from Swiftpak

When deciding on anti-counterfeit packaging it is important to consider a balance between protection element costs and product price, as well as the lifecycle of the product as it would be a problem if the product or packaging lasted longer than the packaging protection. Some protection elements like special printing inks and some holograms can lose their quality a few years sooner. Having said that, it is also not good if anti-counterfeit elements endures longer than the rest of the packaging because you will face the risk of it being copied.

There should be a balance and the anti-counterfeit design needs to be based on this knowledge. At Swiftpak, we have a range of solutions that can be used to minimise the chances of facing counterfeit. These include security solutions such as labelling and tamper-evident tapes. Contact our packaging experts today to discuss which anti-counterfeit solution would be best for your business.