How wine makers can beat the counterfeiters

how wine makers can beat the counterfeiters

Counterfeiting is a global issue and has been for many years; especially in the wine industry. But advances in technology have given counterfeiters the ability to make ever-more-convincing counterfeit goods. Fast.

The Australian wine industry, among others, is a victim of counterfeit goods — especially with the growing Asian market for high-end Australian produce. Just look at the “Barossa” wine that has never been within a sniff of Australian air, or the “Benfolds” wine bottles that had an eerie resemblance to those of Penfolds.

These counterfeit goods are competing with Australian exporters for space on store shelves overseas, and in many cases are actually outselling the real deal. Australia is the second biggest exporter to China and growing. However, China’s CTV reported that 50% of wine sold in China could be fake; some argue that it could be as much as 90% for high-profile brands, like Penfolds Grange.

Counterfeit wine not only hurts profits, but it can also do everlasting damage to a brand and put consumers in danger — especially because we can’t be sure what is inside the fake bottles.



Good branding alone isn’t enough. After all, many Chinese consumers don’t know what to look for on the labels, especially when the name and logo are altered to look like the original. If the consumer isn’t able to read French or English, it can be difficult for unsuspecting buyers to discern what’s real and what’s fake.

One method counterfeiters use is to buy empty wine bottles and simply refill them with cheap grog. As a result, high-end restaurants, hotels, collectors and auction houses have now taken to smashing empty bottles to avoid their unwelcome re-entry into the marketplace. But to stop those counterfeiters using highly advanced technology to “steal” a brand, this still isn’t enough.

The good news is that wine producers can use the same technology advances that have led to an increase in counterfeiting to counteract the criminals. By incorporating better technology into identification, authentication and tracking of wines, producers can make it more difficult for counterfeiters to break into the supply chain. In fact, the global anti-counterfeit packaging market for food and beverages is expected to reach US$62.5 billion globally by 2020.



Currently, the layering of several anti-counterfeiting solutions is the best approach regarding protection. Ideally, this should integrate three tactics:


This encompasses any techniques that confirm the bottle is authentic. Because conventional authentication technologies are the easiest to apply and most cost-effective, they are the most popular anti-counterfeiting method. Unique codes can be generated to authenticate the product.

Some winemakers are choosing to use UV inks to print anti-counterfeiting codes onto items; these are detectable only when read with certain scanning technology. The downside of this method is that consumers can’t recognise the UV inks to authenticate the product.

The most effective, and, therefore, most popular, method for wines is laser coding. Lasers are an extremely fast, cost-effective way to mark high quality, permanent codes onto products. And because the laser can code onto glass and cardboard, they are ideal for marking wine bottles and cartons. At the same time, because of their high quality mark, lasers are ideal in an industry where product presentation is important. (Here’s some more information about coding on wine.) 

Track and trace

Track-and-trace solutions enable the bottles to be traced through the supply chain, right through to the consumer. Barcode-enabled product tracking helps to maintain the supply chain integrity. Coding and labelling technologies make this easy to implement in a production or packaging line.

Winemakers globally are starting to use bottles incorporating new labelling that allows the tracing system to be activated and wines tracked. By having a tracking system on each carton and bottle, producers are able to ensure their wines — not the counterfedemo QR code how wine makers can beat the counterfeitersits — are what the consumer is buying.


Increasingly, marketers are adding QR codes or other scannable codes to wine labels that consumers can scan with their smartphones to access interactive (and trustworthy) online content. (You may find this article on QR codes interesting, and this as one of the 5 codes manufacturers should know.) Try scanning the demonstration QR code above right.


By themselves, these tactics are not enough.

By combining a number of identification and inspection technologies on the production line we can achieve a truly authenticated, tracked and traceable product right through to the consumer. This combination is known as serialisation. With serialisation, each product has a unique code, which can then be scanned by a consumer to verify the product’s authenticity. This also enables a direct marketing opportunity and, at the same time, you receive the data of where the product is being scanned. (Here’s how Camperdown Dairy used QR codes for serialisation in exporting infant formula to China.)

The winemaker is happy. The consumer is happy. In fact, the only people who aren’t happy are the counterfeiters. And that can only be a good thing for Australian and New Zealand manufacturers exporting overseas

(You may find these earlier blogs we’ve written about serialisation and things to know to implement it interesting, as well as 5 lessons food & beverage manufacturers can learn from the healthcare industry regarding serialisation. This infographic is a good summary of using serialisation when exporting your goods to China, while this “Serialisation 101” presentation gives some great starting points. But it’s not just wine in the counterfeiters’ sites: see how counterfeiting in fresh produce is also causing issues and what can be done about it. And see this article, which explains how traceability helps with recalls.)

Contact us to find out how Matthews can help winemakers win the battle against counterfeiters with the latest serialisation technology and techniques.

Photo credit / allanswart


Matt Nichol
Matt is a laser marking expert and has in-depth knowledge of product ID technologies. He is a regular at international trade shows like Pack Expo and is constantly looking at emerging trends and technologies.
Matt Nichol

by Matt Nichol

Matt is a laser marking expert and has in-depth knowledge of product ID technologies. He is a regular at international trade shows like Pack Expo and is constantly looking at emerging trends and technologies.

5 thoughts on “How wine makers can beat the counterfeiters

  1. Braden Bills says:

    It makes sense that wine companies would want to beat counterfeiters. Unique packaging seems like a good way to go! If it’s properly packaged, then it is much more difficult to counterfeit.

  2. Ryan Ho says:

    QR Code might not be the only solutions to fight against counterfeiting of wine. Have you considered Datamatrix code? It’s not as easily copied compared to QR Code and has the ability to store Global Location Number, GLN. Additionally, it’s recommended by GS1 as the standard of choice for some industries.

    • Matt Nichol says:

      Thanks for your comment Ryan. The key to any application solution is to understand the business requirement. If the requirement is for authentication by end consumer (especially in China), we have found that QR codes work really well since consumers don’t need to download any special app —. they know what to do with a QR code and there is no need for an explanation.
      However, if the business requirement is authentication through the supply chain, then using GS1 standards does make a lot of sense and as Strategic Alliance partners, we often advise customers to go this way.

  3. Ibhaan says:

    Thanks Nichols as you mentioned it has become very important now to authenticate and secure our products from counterfeit products, as we know counterfeit is not only in wine industry but also it has affected other industries also like FMCG, Pharma and automotive, there are 40% of fake FMCG products in India and 20% of road accident is due to fake automotive parts, so it has become very important there should be something to differentiate the fake and original products.

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