Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Brand Protection and Product security through Self Adhesive Labels
Protection is one of the very basic human reflexes related phenomenon. What if you suddenly feel a hand touching your pocket where your wallet is placed.. Immediately your reflexes work & “Pat” goes your hand over your pocket in an evident effort to protect your wallet. In the middle of the night, you hear a noise and realise that someone is moving in the house or is trying to make an entry. Impulsively your hand goes to the light switch in a clear effort to protect your home from burglary. You are in the market for shopping and your child is in the back seat. Suddenly you see your child getting out into the middle of the busy road, you run and grab the child away from the traffic protecting him or her from getting hurt. Obviously people who are not quick in their reflexes end up losing their wallets or getting their houses burgled or suffering from their child getting hurt. But the more sensible and clever persons in todays world would go a step further and opt for security systems and devices. The person carrying his wallet would probably start using credit cards, a more secure form of carrying money. The home owner would probably opt for a burglar alarm, a cctv or a sensor light that would come on at the slightest of movement and the car owner would probably opt for the simple child lock in the car. In todays world protecting ones life earnings and valuables is a necessity. Similarly brands, which have much more value then a wallet, a car or a home, need protection.
A life time effort goes into building brands and protecting them is as mind boggling as it is necessary. As with time brands become more and more valuable, the need to protect them from counterfeiters and their fraudulent intentions becomes imperative. Corporate brand owners are raking their minds to find ways to protect the brand from duplication. It is not just brands that have problems with counterfeiters, currency notes, ID papers, credit cards, passports, share certificates, banker cheques, etc., are all the targets of forgers and counterfeiters. Brand piracy and product duplication are large scale frauds. The global anti counterfeiting group which represents the interest of the brand owners worldwide, estimates that fakes and duplicates cost the brand owners about 368 billion US dollar this represents 5-7 percent of world trade. Billions of dollars are lost in sales by brand owners. The government loses tax revenues; and the consumers suffer from the problems due to fake products. Pharma duplication remains the biggest area of concern as it is facing the highest level of threat and the consumer of pharmaceuticals products are the worst sufferers. Liquor is another area, greatly affected by duplicates. It is generally talked about in all the cocktail circuits in India that the amount of Johnny Walker scotch sold in India is more than what they produce in Scotland.
Senior level management teams in FMCG companies are dwelling more and more on security options available to fight this menace. Self-adhesive labels are now in the forefront offering a range of options to counter the attack from counterfeiters and duplicators. The narrow web label printer is playing a very important role in development of the security label. It is necessary that to arrive at the most appropriate security label a close co-operation of the end user, the narrow web label printer and the labelstock manufacturer is very important. The end user has to be aware of the possibilities that the labelstock producer can build-in at the production stage of the labelstock. The labelstock manufacturers has to have a variety of capabilities and skills to improvise in the laminate, similarly the narrow web label printer is required to have advanced capabilities to perform conversion on the label and build-in feature that contribute to the security of the product.
The role of labelstock manufacturers here is very important. He has to bring to the forum of these partners i.e, the user, label printer and himself, the information on the availability of raw materials and his own capabilities and the options that can be built-in at the time of producing the stock. The user brings to the forum the knowledge that he possesses about the skills of the counterfeiters and the techniques they employ in faking. The label printer who brings the label to its final shape has to have specialized converting and decorating capabilities to be able to contribute fruitfully to the efforts of this forum to design a label that would make the fakes easily identifiable. The label so produced should prove to be an effective deterrent.
The present scenario and the need for security label provides opportunity for the producer of security label, as a new market, where price is important, but not of prime concern is opening up and growing at a steady 20% per annum. Labelstock, primarily consists, of three main constituents- the release liner, the adhesive and the face paper. The release liner in most of the cases ends up in the dustbin. There are exceptions like the piggy back labels which have two liners and one ends upon the package as a part of the end label. So in general terms there is not much security built into the backing liner. It is however necessary to customize it according to the converting and dispensing requirement of the end label. The other two constituents i.e, the adhesive and face paper play an important role as these go along and are an integral part of the final dispensed label. The labelstock manufacturers needs to be well informed and equipped with the possibilities which can be employed to customize and secure a label. Most of the security is built into the facestock and the adhesive is designed to compliment the requirements of the security functions built into the facestock.
Some examples of duplication
Every country has its own type of counterfeiters & duplicaters. I mention here on what we have in India:-
1.FMCG products: I personally would probably rate toothpaste as the most widely and easily duplicated product in India. Every now and then we find the brand owners reporting raids on illegal packaging companies and catching the criminals. Yet the process of duplication goes on un-abated. The hawkers on the payments of metros or the smaller shopkeepers in smaller towns, stock & sell. Fakes or look-alikes of a famous brand Colgate being sold fraudulently under brands like Golgate, Collate or Colage in exactly similar looking packaging to many poor illiterate consumers. I wonder if it amounts to dental hygiene or not.? I feel simple a security seal affixed on the product packaging and adequately advertised, would be a deterrent but then the brand owners are the best judges, they may already have put their minds on this.
2.Bank frauds: I now bring to you a classic example of cheque forgery. A particular person in collusion with a postman got hold of a bankers cheque issued by a bank favouring Canara bank for Rs.Eight Million This is how the word Canara bank was written.
The person used a matching pen & changed it like this.
"Tucanarain Bankey "
by affixing “T U” before Canara and in after it and then “e y” after bank. The cheque now read Tucanarain Bankey which appears to be a normal Indian name. He opened an account with Syndicate bank in name of Tucanarain Bankey, deposited the bankers cheque and withdrew the money. The fraud came to light when the man had vanished leaving some 50000/- in the account. To check frauds like this a co. in Mumbai had opted for affixing transparent filmic labels on all the written text of the cheque to prevent such tampering. Temporarily this did act as a deterrent. Now we have a request from the same customer to further modify the product as duplicators use hair dryers to heat the product label and peel it off when the adhesive softens. They make changes in the amount/name and refix the label.
The above examples clearly indicate the imperative need of introducing security features on all products. Labels play a very definite and important roll in this. To reach the final security labels a sincere effort and collective thinking of the brand owner, the label printer and the labelstock manufacturer is required. Without hampering the brand image, security has to be built up in the product and the method for educating the end user to verify the authenticity of the product has to be devised.
I list below some of the security options available-
2. Consecutive or sequential numbering
4. DNA Inks
5. Thermochromic inks
6. Multi layered label
7. Transfer labels
8. Security cuts on labels
9. VOID stock
10. Security inks (UV sensitive)
11. Micro Taggants in labels
12. Destructible label
13. Sub surface printing
14. Security threads
16. UV Fibres in pulp or adhesive
17. Water mark paper
I now dwell on the some individual security labels and the construction of such labelstocks. Some features are overt those that can be seen and others covert that can not be seen normally.
1. Barcode labels:-
I am sure most people recognize barcodes. These are present on labels as a band of verticle lines of varying thickness. These contain a whole lot of information in them. Barcodes are used for billing, inventory control, product tracking and a variety of control systems beside providing a fair amount of security. Barcodes can be printed by many printing processes but the most widely used process to print barcodes with the highest level of sensing remains the Thermal transfer printing. For accurate printing of a barcode the labelstock needs to be specially designed. The face paper is double coated on top for smoothness and for firm anchorage of the barcode to the paper. The reverse side of the face paper is also coated to prevent any seapage of the adhesive to the top, especially when the thermal transfer barcode is printed by application of heat. The adhesive has to be designed to adhere to a vide range of difficult and low energy surfaces. One can imagine the trouble that would erupt if these labels that provide a lot of information besides security, fall off the packages they are supposed to adhere on. The release paper has to be a highly calendered glassine which provides for a certain amount of transparency to enable the barcode printer to sense the label through the release paper. The release paper is also designed to offer release values which compliment high speed convertion and further dispensing on automatic labeling machines. Today demand for barcoded labels is coming from users on different substratres like BOPP, Polyester, Metalized films, etc. Again here these substrates need to be given a top coat to make them suitable for the required printing process and proper sensing and reading of the barcode thereafter.
3. Security Inks and threads and UV Fibres- Creating security features into labelstocks or labels using security inks is possible in many diverse ways. This is possible due to the wide variety of inks available.
(a)Thermo chromic inks:- These inks change colour with change of temperature e.g, if you keep a bottle of cold drink or a beer in a freezer, the moment it reaches a temp of say 10 degree C the otherwise invisible printed text “chilled” would be visible and readable. It would disappear with the rise of temperature. Similarly we have inks that change colour at higher temperature.
(b) UV sensitive inks- These glow under UV light or change colour when exposed to sunlight.
(c)Metameric inks- These are inks that are similar in day light condition but change under different light sources. One can print an invisible message which becomes readable when light condition change such images cannot be photocopied.
At the labelstock manufacturing stage the face paper can be printed on the top or the reverse with any of the security inks. The front side is generally printed with these inks by the label printer at the time of producing labels. However if printing is desired at the reverse before the adhesive this has to be done prior to producing the label laminate security threads can also be introduced into the laminate . UV fibres can be incorporated into the the pulp by the paper mill or in the adhesive during production of labelstock. Such fibres can be seen under the UV light.
4. Tamper evidents-
ResealedTamper evident labels are the most widely used security labels. These labels generally have features built into them, such that they show when they have been removed and reapplied. The classic example is the label which when removed leaves the message VOID behind. Today labelstock can be designed such that the residual message VOID can be customized to customer needs. Destructible labels are another form of tamper evident label materials. Such a label fragments into small pieces when somebody attempts to remove it. These labelstocks can be top coated for accepting barcode printing. Generally used materials for destructible are acetate and vinyls however some companies do have some proprietory constructions. Other products falling under the category of tamper evidents is the multi layer, where the layers are designed such that they split when the label is removed. In the case of the transfer label whole or part of the label is transferred to the substrate on which label is applied, blank film or partially printed film comes off from the top.
Producing finished RFID label is a challenging job. Many of the inlays may be damaged in the process and losses are estimated to be upto 15 percent. The labels and chips may get damaged in the converting process itself. Special cushioned substrates can prevent damage to the chip thus making it extremely necessary for testing the functionality and readability of the chip before and after insertion into the labelstock.
A typical construction has been developed by a leading US based co. Here the chip is inserted into the labelstock with a foam layer then a antistatic coating is given to prevent the RFID from static charge thereafter the face paper and finally the top coating to accept barcode printing. There is a lot of hipe of RFID being the technology of the future. It will change the face of labels that aid retailing. Then there are others, who do not agree with the line of thought. At this stage I would like to add a word of caution lest one may over indulge in a technology that changes fast and may not eventually be implemented.
Summary- The scope of security labels is wide. The efforts of innovative labelstock manufacturer and label producers can produce new and effective security solutions. The list of other options available can further include DNA inks, taggants that are microscopic particles or even biocodes, water mark papers or labels with security cuts, the list extends as far as the imagination of the innovative labelstock or label manufacturers extends. Preparing security labels is only one part of the exercise, educating customer to check its authenticity is the more important part. What good is a security label if it cannot protect the duplication and if you do not know how to check if it is a genuine product?
Before I conclude I must state that developing security labels and producing them is an ongoing process. No single solution is a permanent solution for a product, because if someone can make it then someone can fake it. It just may be a matter of time.
Written by Harveer Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Celloplast Limited, New Delhi-110008