The international packaging industry meets tomorrow’s trends. A great deal still remains to be done until the next interpack in 2011.
Three main tasks – as became clear at interpack 2008 – will be the continued, relentless fight against product and brand piracy, the further development of “smart” packaging and the use of nano-technology.
Product and brand piracy have come to be among the most serious forms of white-collar crime. They confront business and politicians with major problems because they have developed into a highly professional industry building on a global network. Experts estimate that approximately 10% of global trade is affected. The damage caused totals up to EUR 200 billion each year – and figures are rising.
The spectrum of counterfeited products ranges from parts in original quality at lower prices without the “expensive” producer’s label to criminally forged products in a poor quality but distributed in “genuine” looking packaging. If such a part fails – e.g. a safety-critical machine or aircraft component – it will be just a matter of time before personal injury is caused. Just as precarious are counterfeit drugs – and of many consumables and appliances. Forged products pose a growing threat to consumers’ life and health.
Product and brand protection therefore also become consumer protection.
The immediate consequence of replacing originals with forged products is a loss of turnover and profits: not only is the fight against piracy by patent rights and the legal prosecution of their violators expensive but product and brand piracy also entails a lowering of the price level at the end of the day. Prices for original merchandise come under massive pressure on account of the noticeably lower prices of product copies. And if shoppers have gone through a bad experience with products of one brand then this also negatively impacts the original. The loss of image leads to a loss of market share in the medium term – and, hence, of sales, too. Add to this product liability issues if the original producer is forced to first prove that damages were caused by a copy rather than their product.
More and more institutions, associations and enterprises are taking up the fight against product and brand piracy on a global scale.
VDMA, the German Machinery and Plant Manufacturers’ Association, for example, initiated the “Pro Original” campaign in 2007. Its main aim is to raise awareness about the value of original technology. “Choose the Original – Choose Success” is the motto. Because “original” means quality, innovation, efficiency, experience and safety.
The COPACO Group also flies its flag: at the INNOVATIONPARC PACKAGING at interpack 2008 it presented copy-proof packaging solutions under the heading “Innovation vs. Imitation – Concepts & Solutions”. In cooperation with the VDMA and Aktion Plagiarius e.V. plenty of helpful information was presented for protecting the supply chain against copy cats and brand pirates.
In this endeavour Copaco focuses on solutions that affect the entire supply chain – from the manufacturer to the consumer. Alongside the classic safety features provided by printing, concepts for the traceability of products are gaining more and more ground.
Independent from any vendors, this consulting group offers state-of-the-art technology building on the pooled competence of its member firms plus in-house developments. This includes the Karl Knauer 3.0 NFC system, a web-based process for global product and authenticity checks for retailers and consumers. Thanks to the integration of latest radio technology it provides a comprehensive track & trace solution for inventory management along the entire supply chain including the POS.
Further options for safety concepts are offered by still recent processes, e.g. cold-foil transfer, which allows forgery-proofness to be increased in in-line printing just by packaging design. Many exciting developments can be expected in this field by interpack 2011.
Smart Packaging: future technology is pulling all the plugs
According to estimates by the US market research institute IDTechEX the world market for organic electronics will grow from currently US$ 1.2 billion to approx. US$ 48.2 billion over the next nine years. Even though the technology and its integration into industrial-scale processes have not yet reached full maturity, research is in full swing. These developments will also boost the importance of “smart packaging”.
The base material for organic electronics are conductive polymers – printable and still thinner, lighter, more flexible and less costly than silicon chips. Printed RFID transponders, flexible displays, roll-up solar cells, one-way diagnostic devices, little gadgets, “smart” labels, OLED illumination on packaging, advertising surfaces or wallpapers: for track & trace, product and brand protection as well as marketing and convenience decisive advances can be expected.
Tomorrow’s smart packaging will fulfil new functions in addition to the traditional ones – such as changing the colour of labels as soon as the shelf-life ends or packaging units that can warn of salmonella with the help of detectors.
“We are working flat out on materials and printing processes that permit us to apply electronically based intelligence to standardised printing routines,” says Martina Claus, spokeswoman of the COPACO Projekt Group “Product Protection and Smart Packaging”.
Nanotechnology on the advance
Another trend is the use of nanotechnology in the packaging industry. It is considered among the key technologies of the 21st century and will have an influence on many areas over the next few years, including the packaging of products for daily needs.
Over the past few years nanotechnology has enjoyed remarkable research success. Solutions are researched intensely. Consumers demand an increasing degree of transparency for product claims. Improved information and easier use of products, packaging as a type of service rendered – this is the customer benefit in the overall “Smart Packaging” concept.
And, again, the buzzword ‘forgery proof’ plays a role here: copying smart packaging will simply become too expensive for copy cats, even if they have the technical capabilities to do so. And this applies to nano-coatings just as much as to printed organic-electronic components.