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Holograms offer added dimensions in packaging security

David Bellm

January 29, 2014

8 Min Read
Holograms offer added dimensions in packaging security

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Packaging security 1

Not only does holographic technology help to protect products against the threat of counterfeiters but it also offers manufacturers a highly effective way to ensure their products catch the eye of consumers on crowded retail shelves.


A review of holograms would not be complete without a word about the role they have in packaging enhancement. Manufacturers have the considerable challenge of capturing customer attention and maintaining or growing market share, so the eye-catching and creative appeal of holograms helps by giving products a distinctive decorative edge over competitors.

Holography is limited only by the constraints of the imagination. Continuing advances in film coating and manufacturing technology have opened the door for innovative embossed holographic materials used in packaging, while a wide variety of specialized techniques offer an infinite variety of colorful 3D visual effects, ranging from the bright and stunning to more subtle graphic features. 

Holographic films are ideal in the packaging industry for a wide variety of flexible applications. Wide-web holographic films are commonly used for printing, gift wraps, packaging, lamination and eye-catching marketing stickers because the richness of the film adds to the overall quality and feel of the product packaging. The combination of opaque and translucent inks with optical technology further increases the graphic opportunities available, reinforcing brand identities, capturing customer attention and bringing new life to mature or aging pack design.

API Holographic Ltd’s HoloFOIL™, for instance, is one of the latest generation of decorative holographic foils used for packaging where maximum shelf appeal is an important element of the marketing mix, particularly among premium products but increasingly with commodity consumer items. Featuring more than 20 standard patterns with differing visual effects and colour variants, API own copyrights on several hundred holographic designs.

Holographic foils can be used to great effect to differentiate product at the point-of-sale—something Colgate Palmolive recognized when they launched its new Total brand of toothpastes into an already crowded market place. Aimed at the premium market, Colgate needed its high-quality brand to stand out from the volume market.

The consumer goods’ giant  decided to use  holographic foil to reinforce the high quality values of the Total brand while simultaneously ensuring the packaging was visually attractive enough to catch the eye of consumers rapidly scanning supermarket shelves. The visual effects holography brings were identified as a powerful tool in building a spowerful message and instant recognition.

API’s foil was specified to offer a bespoke, reliable and flexible design solution that could also withstand fast production speeds. The value the foil added to the overall branding is difficult to pin down but has certainly helped contribute to the brand becoming a market leader and instantly recognizable on the shelf.

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Packaging manufacturers have become adept at laminating, printing and die-cutting technology that enhances the appeal of holographic effects and also makes them difficult to reproduce. Once a holographic pattern material has been obtained, it is relatively straightforward to laminate it to paperboard, overprint and cut to the form of a box. More difficult is the challenge of taking a registered image holographic design, printing inks over it in register with the design and then die cutting the sheets in register with the print/hologram combination.

Hasbro Games has used U.S.-based Vacumet Corp.’s HoloPRISM® holographic foil technology to ensure boxes of its MONOPOLY: The Disney Edition and other packaged games catch the eye of shoppers of all ages in the busy retail environment, while Vacumet’s holographic packaging concept for Trivial Pursuit 25th Anniversary Edition has previously been commended by the IHMA for its added value appeal for brand design and packaging.

Thwarting counterfeiters
The counterfeiting explosion is being driven by increased industrial globalization, extended supply chains, the growth of brands, weak regional law enforcement and lenient criminal penalties. Moreover, the impact of the Internet as a conduit for counterfeit goods and the impact of high quality reprographic technology have also made it easy and affordable to copy brand packaging.

So, against this backdrop, it’s little wonder that the hologram has emerged to become a top choice for anti-counterfeiting and brand protection applications. The technology’s ability to incorporate other data forms and product tracking information is becoming increasingly important, and commercially acceptable, with the added bonus of being able to link on-pack product identification with supply chain management, market enforcement and forensic support services.

Combining tools for security
Combinations of other overt authentication technologies with holograms are producing a new generation of optical security devices that offer ease of recognition benefits with significantly enhanced resistance to counterfeits. This enables the identity and distribution of goods to be controlled through an expanded system solution involving security authentication features, tracking mechanisms and investigative services.

Indeed, the rise of the Internet and globalization is blurring the edges of once geographically-based markets, often impinging upon an organization’s ability to maintain brand image by selling only in premium channels.

The result is a burgeoning gray market economy (where legitimate goods are produced in unauthorized quantities or diverted to a market in which a retailer has no right to sell them) with exclusive, aspirational, often counterfeit products turning up for sale anywhere in the world from street corner traders in the big cities to small villages in remote provinces.

The grey economy is clearly challenging today’s global market place, threatening revenue streams, eroding margins, damaging corporate reputations, adding extra stress to distributor and retailer relationships and generally opening up the opportunity for service and warranty fraud on a grand-scale.
Tackling the issue typically requires the marking of individual items with a unique serial number or ‘license plate.’ These can then be tracked through the whole supply chain process from the production line to final point-of-sale.

Armed with the information this facility provides, companies and the anti-counterfeiting agencies can examine products found in cheap flea markets, on the premises of an unauthorized retailer or dealer or on a website to determine how products were obtained for sale.

Track & trace benefits
Today’s advanced holograms offer beneficial track and trace features that can help users generate unique sequential, encrypted or random serial numbers or identify and mark products overtly or covertly either via special self-adhesive labels or directly onto product using a variety of print technologies.

The identity of individual items can be linked to packaging through a unique code, which in turn can be linked to case ID, pallet ID or container ID. The recording of this so-called parent child relationship between unit pack, carton and pallet is the beginning of an electronic pedigree, which allows the item to be tracked throughout the many layers of the distribution chain. 

Of particular value to the brand owner (and a strong financial incentive to make the investment in such systems) is the fact that the information generated at this labelling stage can be linked to the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which links in a single database the data needed for a variety of business functions.

The move towards outsourcing the production of goods might be beneficial in terms of reducing manufacturing costs but it can impact upon the control of brand security and visibility. Here, holograms can be integrated into the supply chain security process to enable companies to maintain control of their products from the sourcing of labels or proprietary components to the manufacturing and shipment of finished goods.

Holograms can be integrated with secure Web interfaces to help eliminate rogue ordering of products while authorized distributors can pick, pack and ship items in carefully measured quantities to customers with the product’s movements throughout the supply chain tracked and fully documented

When brand owners or licensors make agreements to enable a third-party to produce licensed products, a security device is typically used to ensure authenticity and to help keep track of royalties. Sequentially numbered anti-counterfeit security labels are supplied to the manufacturing site in exactly the correct number corresponding to the quantity of items ordered.

Here, the role of the hologram is to act as the security device—an integral part of an all round added value information toolkit designed to support the secure ordering, shipping, tracking and control of components. The inclusion of serial number tracking enables the licensor to search the history of a particular serial number and identify to whom that item was shipped and when. Conversely, if any items are discovered in the marketplace lacking the security label, it is automatically unauthorized thus opening the door to prosecution of the vendor for illicit trading.

Unquestionably, one of the keys to the success of holograms since being adopted for authentication purposes in the early 1980s has been the ability to adapt and constantly find new roles. Industry will undoubtedly see more interesting developments for the technology, such as  the ability to personalize holograms, which is just beginning to take off, that will offer far reaching benefits that further expand the technology’s impact and use in packaging.


This article was prepared by Glenn Wood of the International Hologram Manufacturers Association, which is made up of more than 80 of the world’s leading hologram companies. For further information, visit www.ihma.org


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