Packaging Security Building Trust for Brands

How advancements are ensuring integrity throughout the value chain.



As brands continue to grapple for market superiority, concerns regarding packaging security are on the rise. From counterfeiting to supply chain diversion issues, brands are looking to packaging experts to help protect their product’s integrity.

For three companies heavily involved in the packaging security space, constructing a strong partnership with brands has been one of the keys to their success.

An Increasing Demand

Lindsey Barbee, national account manager for AR Metallizing in Franklin, Mass., notes that the demand for more secure packaging capabilities is growing, especially for pharmaceutical products and higher-end consumer goods, such as top-shelf liquor. Counterfeiting is a chief concern.

“It cannot just be ‘here is your order’ after you produce [secure packaging] — it has to be a collaboration on the front end,” Barbee notes. “We have creative support within our facility to help modify the client’s artwork. So it is even more challenging than what the typical printer is used to dealing with day-to-day.”

Using a client’s images, AR Metallizing can create holography that becomes part of a company’s branding. Clients often need to be guided through the security packaging process, Barbee says.

“We take everything on a case-by-case basis,” adds Wendy Cross, AR Metallizing’s sales and business development director, North America.

As an example, Cross explains that AR Metallizing recently had a pharmaceutical client that was initially interested in custom holography to help to distinguish themselves and to use it as an anti-counterfeiting measure.

“We worked with them to come up with some concepts and designs,” Cross recalls. “They loved it, but it was at the top of their budget — the cost of creating that custom holography had a price tag that they were a little surprised by. So they decided to go in another direction due to their budget.”

The client opted for the creation of a holographic sticker that they could attach to their packaging. Unfortunately, the sticker was easily emulated by packaging counterfeiters.

“So they returned to us and we now work with them to produce a holographic box,” Cross points out. “This solved the counterfeiting issue. So while it did cost a little bit more, the end result was greater sales for the brand.”

AR Metallizing’s holography capabilities offer protection against counterfeiting by adding unique physical properties to packaging and promotional materials. The company has patented technology it uses to create holograms for security purposes on its HoloSECURE line of holographic metalized papers.

Additionally, AR Metallizing can offer an even higher level of brand protection with the use of covert imagery, which is invisible to the naked eye. Covert imagery is often overlooked by counterfeiters and provides evidence of tampering or fraudulent packaging. This gives brands a higher level of protection since it is very difficult to simulate.

Providing Solutions

At Nosco, a package printing company in Gurnee, Ill., specializing in the pharmaceutical segment, brands have been seeking packaging security assistance at a steady rate for the past decade.

“In general, I would say our level of security sales as a percentage of our overall business is pretty consistent,” Nosco President Craig Curran says. “It ebbs and flows.”

Nosco is a full-service packaging solutions provider serving more than 400 customers in the health care industry. The company’s serialization solutions help pharmaceutical companies meet DQSA compliance while offering high-quality barcodes and unique device identifier technology to boost patient safety, supply chain visibility, and inventory management.

Brands typically come to Nosco knowing that they have a security problem with their packaging but aren’t always sure what they need to do to address it, Curran explains. The company boasts a platform of about a dozen products that it can offer, including RFID, color-shifting ink, watermarks, and serialized barcodes.

“We have a standardized portfolio we walk them through and we partner with them,” Curran says. “We have a full-time person in our solutions engineering department who works on security products and that person partners with them to figure out what they need. It has long been a function here for us to support our customers with brand security and we’re ready, able, and willing to provide assistance.”

Curran points to three basic security printing options: overt, covert, and forensic. Brands need to decide if they want potential wrong-doers to know there are security measures on their packaging or keep it more secretive.

“You really have to identify what your problem is and how you want to approach it,” Curran advises. “Some people want to do something overt and scare the bad guys away. They want people to know there is security protection there. Other people are trying to catch people covertly who are diverting their product and they don’t want them to know anything is there.”

Curran contends there currently is widespread product diversion in the marketplace. This typically involves a product that is meant to go through a certain supply chain but is diverted and sold through another source.

“So let’s say a practitioner is authorized to sell a product directly, but all of the sudden it shows up on eBay or Amazon,” Curran says, as an example. “Brands don’t like that. It’s not licensed to sell online, but people will try to do that to make an extra buck.”

Nosco’s serialized printed packaging allows brands to fight counterfeiting, streamline record-keeping, and easily track products. Additionally, serialized packaging can link critical product data to patient records, and support pharmaceutical companies’ need to meet requirements and regulations in multiple markets.

Advancing Technologies

The availability of equipment and digital tools used by counterfeiters is nothing new. However, the sophistication and capabilities of scanners, software, and digital printing devices have never been higher, says Tony Rodriguez, CTO of Digimarc Corp. in Beaverton, Ore.

With the Digimarc Platform featuring the Digimarc Barcode, product authenticity and security can be protected. Serialized barcodes add traceability for accurate product tracking, while unique identifiers add enhanced security for critical media. This helps brands prove ownership of assets in the supply chain.

Digimarc also helps brands fight against counterfeit or diverted products with Digimarc Barcode for Digital Images, which works in conjunction with web crawl services. This undetectable coding provides businesses with brand protection for their images online, which Digimarc contends is superior to watermarks or fingerprinting options.

Social trends are also pushing the supply chain in new ways. This creates new opportunities for anything from product diversion to counterfeiting.

“When you stress the supply chain, people will figure out how to divert products,” Rodriguez contends. “Full-on counterfeiting takes more time and there is usually a lag before you see a counterfeited product.”

Rodriguez stresses that it is important to work with brands from early in the packaging process to learn the company’s objectives and to discover what threats they are facing.

“From there we can work backward to what is a strategy that we can use to defend against these issues,” he says, noting that this could include adding unique identifiers on the package, including serialization or lot and batch numbers. “We do that in a way that is difficult to re-originate.” 

Chris Bauer
Chris Bauer is a Philadelphia-based journalist and digital marketing professional who has covered the printing industry since the 1990s. A former managing editor for
Printing Impressions magazine and editor-in-chief for LexisNexis, he also served on the staff of In-Plant Impressions and Packaging Impressions magazines. Contact him at cbauer30@msn.com