Ask any food supplier what equipment they need for food-safety program, and laser marking wouldn’t be the first thing they say. In fact, chances are it wouldn’t even make the list.
But for brand owners who are serious about their food-safety programs and want to meet full compliance with regulators and retailers, laser marking and serialisation are essential ingredients for success.
Because what we’re really talking about here is fighting food fraud.
The rise of food fraud globally means some of major retailers, including Coles, Woolworths and Aldi, are making it mandatory for businesses to ensure the risks of food fraud (VACCP) and food defence (TACCP) have been identified and controlled before the brand is stocked on their supermarket shelves.
For example, Woolworths states in its Supplier Excellence Program 2019 that suppliers must:
- have processes in place to assess information on historical or developing threats
- identify any potential or known risks by conducting a vulnerability assessment using a multidisciplinary team
- and, where vulnerability is highlighted, introduce appropriate control measures
So, how can serialisation and laser–marking technology help?
First, let’s look at what serialisation does.
Simply understood, serialisation is the process of putting a unique mark or code on every product and every packaging level to enable traceability and facilitate authentication. This assures retailers and consumers that the product they are buying is genuine.
Serialisation is not about eliminating food fraud, but implementing the right technology to make your product less of a target. In short, by creating an indelible, unique mark on each product, it’s harder for the product to be tampered with and counterfeited. And that’s where the laser marking technology comes in – to mark products with an indelible code.
With serialisation at the consumer-unit level, each product has a unique code (in the form of a QR code or 2D code). The consumer scans this code to verify the product’s authenticity. Typically, alphanumeric codes are used because multiple numbers and letters mean there’s a one in quintillion chance of fraudsters correctly guessing the next code. (A quintillion has 18 zeros by the way, as in 1018, so that’s a very, very slim chance for fraudsters.)
However, you can go a step further with cloud-based serialisation. This provides aQR code generated by complex algorithms. No numbers are sequential, which improves security.
Most importantly, serialisation shows your trading partners, other suppliers and consumers that you are taking measures to meet quality standards and decrease food fraud by making it harder for people to counterfeit and tamper with your product.
In other words, it instils confidence in the authenticity and safety of your product.
One Australian company who has successfully put this to work is Camperdown Dairy International. The dairy producer needed a solution to export baby formula to China. Working with Matthews Australasia and Trust Codes, their solution uses a Matthews’ Solaris scribing laser to mark each milk formula tin with a unique serialised QR code, which is generated by Trust Codes. Then, Matthews’ iDSnet software platform brings the whole solution together by integrating with Trust Codes and the laser marking system on the production line.
See serialisation in action at Camperdown Dairy International in this video.
Counterfeiting is here to stay, but you shouldn’t wait to be targeted. Serialisation and laser marking together provide a very effective way of protecting your brand integrity and consumers’ safety from being compromised by fake products.
Ready to take protect your brand?
Here’s what to do next:
- Read the relevant standards – start with our previous article on food safety standards, part one
- Know the regulations in the countries where you produce and sell your food
- Understand the relevant supplier requirements, e.g. Coles, Woolworths, Aldi, etc..
- Understand any risks in your industry
Our experts are here to help. Talk to our team about the solutions we have created for other food suppliers and manufacturers; we’ve worked across the spectrum of the industry from big to small, mainstream to niche.
Image credits: iStock/ chang (main); iStock/ Waldemarus (2nd)