Anti-counterfeit packaging combats product piracy

Counterfeit products from around the world have been a problem for many years. When it comes to counterfeit pharmaceutical and food products, not only is consumer health at risk but so is the reputation of the brand owner. In regions such as Africa and Asia, up to 30% of all pharmaceutical products are counterfeit, with product piracy affecting even food producers, said Constantia Flexibles (Vienna).

Image courtesy Stuart Miles/

“Counterfeit products of every description can be detrimental to health,” explained Alexander Baumgartner, CEO of Constantia Flexibles. “It goes without saying that product counterfeiting and the related impact on health also lead to a loss of confidence in the original brand. Anti-counterfeiting is becoming ever more important to protect consumers and companies.

“This involves taking steps to increase the counterfeit protection of products. Constantia Flexibles has been working hard for many years on further improving packaging that clearly distinguishes branded products from counterfeits,” Baumgartner added.

Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are particularly prevalent in developing countries. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that the market value of counterfeit anti-malarial medicines in West Africa alone is more €300 million, for example. In Southeast Asia, around 36% of anti-malarial drugs are counterfeits containing chalk or detergents instead of active ingredients to help combat the disease, Constantia Flexibles said.

As tablets are frequently sold without secondary packaging in developing countries, clearly identifiable, distinctive primary packaging is particularly important. For this reason, Constantia Flexibles has developed sophisticated design and security features, among other technologies, that enable customers to distinguish between real and counterfeit medicines.

It’s not just pharmaceuticals that are at risk but also food products. According to media reports, in April 2017 Europol and Interpol confiscated counterfeit food valued at around €240 million in a sweeping pan-European operation. Overall, the investigators carried out inspections in more than 60 countries, including 21 EU member states. Police, customs officials and food authorities seized nearly 10,000 metric tons of food and 26 million liters of beverages between December 2016 and March 2017. This is not an isolated case: Arndt Sinn, Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Osnabrück in Germany, puts the damage caused by counterfeit products at around €400 billion per year.

The Constantia Hueck site is the only food packaging production facility in Europe to be accredited by the IHMA—the International Hologram Manufacturing Association—and is therefore also able to manufacture security features for bank notes, which provide maximum protection against counterfeits. As a member of the IHMA, Constantia Flexibles is also authorized to have certain features protected for each individual customer. This prevents identical security features from being molded by another company and integrated into packaging.

For the patented security features, Constantia Flexibles often employs technologies that are unusual in this form in packaging production. Special laser technology and security graphics software are needed to produce design elements with guilloche modules—a pattern comprising several interlaced, overlapping polylines—as well as relief modules and grids. Other complex print designs and unique optical effects that are achieved with color-shifting inks protect branded products from being counterfeited.

Further protection is provided by an aluminum foil tailored to the brand, with the logo and various security features integrated into the surface of the foil, for instance. These features cannot be removed without damaging the material. The special detachable lid foil from Constantia Flexible is also damaged when the product is opened. 

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