Fedrigoni Offers RFID Solutions Following Tageos Acquisition

By Claire Swedberg

The specialty paper and packaging company's purchase of the French RFID technology firm has led to a wider product offering that serves pharmaceutical, luxury brand, healthcare and airline customers.

Since specialty paper and adhesives company Fedrigoni Group acquired the minority share of Tageos in March 2022, the latter has been diversifying its portfolio to meet an expanding customer demand for intelligent solutions (see Fedrigoni Becomes Tageos Majority Shareholder). Fedrigoni is now in conversations with new customers across sectors from retail and luxury brands, pharmaceutical and industrial companies, and businesses in other sectors in which an RFID-enabled intelligent label or tag could improve supply chain efficiency and customer engagement.

Fedrigoni hopes to enable other features it has not been able to provide in the past, to contribute to wider RFID adoption across several sectors. The firm has a 134-year history, beginning with a paper mill in late 19th-century Verona, Italy. The company provides products for applications such as luxury packaging, self-adhesive labels, seals, stationery and industrial paper production, for which high-performing and aesthetically pleasing specialty paper is required. In addition, Fedrigoni provides the kinds of self-adhesive labels used on luxury products and wine bottles.

"Wine and spirits are a stronghold for our company," says Antonio Linardi, Fedrigoni Group's chief transformation officer, who is also responsible for RFID business within the company. The specialty paper and packaging company has a catalog of 25,000 items and employs 4,000 workers worldwide, with 34 production plants and cutting centers. In 2017, Linardi says, it was acquired by U.S. equity firm Bain Capital, which led to a global expansion. Since then, the firm has been experiencing annual double-digit growth in packaging, he reports.

Tageos provides UHF RFID and Near Field Communication (NFC) labels. The company, located in Montpelier, France, serves retailers, brand owners, industrial manufacturers and other customers. Tageos's UHF RFID labels are used by companies to manage inventory as goods with Tageos tags travel through supply chains. Its 13.56 MHz NFC tags comply with the ISO 14443 standard, while its HF tags comply with ISO 15693, and individuals with smartphones can use them to view authentication or other content about a tagged product or asset.

Opportunity for Growth with Technology

Antonio Linardi

Antonio Linardi

The two companies offer solutions to some common customers. For instance, Linardi says, Fedrigoni's printed, self-adhesive labels are used not only for products like wine and spirits, but also for pharmaceuticals, to provide printed details about a medication and its expiration date. Customers have included label converters and printers. The expansion of RFID technology's use to automatically transmit data for inventory management, authentication, consumer engagement and product lifecycle management has become an opportunity, he says.

In recent years, many of these customers have expressed an interest in having RFID or NFC technology built into packaging or labels. "We realized there was a great opportunity to partner with customers," Linardi states, "and help them with their journey into RFID." Fedrigoni views the technology as a complement to its existing portfolio. As conversations began regarding connectivity and intelligent applications, the firm wanted to provide such solutions and partner with customers, including those unfamiliar with RFID in deploying the technology.

Fedrigoni saw a potential match with its acquisition of Tageos. The two companies are well suited to work together, Linardi says, as both have an ambitious technology innovation culture. "We felt, from day one, really close in culture," he states, "and that's why we decided to join our efforts."

Tageos partners with service bureaus, systems integrators and label converters, and it has been experiencing growth in RFID demand during the past few years, according to Matthieu Picon, the company's CEO. "We are looking to expand our global reach and capabilities," he says. "The market is booming, and we need to serve that global demand. Together [with Fedrigoni] we have the right capabilities, including global reach." The early solutions under discussion are now addressing customization projects, he reports.

RFID Use Expands Beyond Apparel and Footwear

While RFID technology use has been expanding in the apparel and footwear markets, Fedrigoni and Tageos see a similar evolution underway for NFC and RFID connectivity with a broader set of brands and products and sectors. The technology not only enables inventory management but customer engagement, so that individuals can gain access to content regarding a product they are buying or have taken home.

Matthieu Picon

Matthieu Picon

That means the deployment of RFID labels on drugs or other healthcare products for the pharmaceutical industry can provide authentication and additional data, such as expiration dates and directions for use. The automotive and airline sectors are using RFID labels for their purposes as well. Tagged components in cars assist with work-in-progress and returns, while baggage tags help to ensure passengers' luggage is not misrouted.

Fedrigoni and Tageos share a focus on sustainability, the companies report. Tageos released its EOS Zero UHF RFID product line (see Tageos Tags Reflect Broadening RFID Demand), which includes paper-based inlays and tags that are plastic- and heavy metal-free, leveraging laser-cut antennas. "We see this [sustainability] as a starting point to further leverage our distinctive, combined know-how in both paper and RFID," Linardi says. Future development may be driven by further customer demand.

Since the acquisition this past spring, Linardi reports, "We have been impressed by the number of customers that have contacted us," asking about the acquisition and what it could mean for the firm's product portfolio and customized solutions. "That's a confirmation that the market was looking for those unique capabilities and value propositions. Many of them [potential customers] have no, or limited, background in RFID. They are asking for a turnkey solution, and we are—as a truly customer-centric company—feeling out the best way to provide a full solution." Tageos, he notes, comes with an ecosystem of partners and suppliers that can serve this new customer base.

Predicting the Next Big Wave of RFID Adoption

Projecting forward, the two companies have their eyes on the pharmaceutical industry. "We see a big wave coming from the pharmaceutical market," Picon predicts, "which has been looking for these solutions." Fedrigoni and Tageos, he adds, are obtaining leads from all vertical markets.

In retail, Linardi forecasts, growth will continue with RFID-enabled solutions. "We think RFID will be the enabler for the phygital world, initially in retail and soon beyond it." The term "phygital" refers to the blend of physical and digital shopping. For instance, retailers are already benefitting from RFID labels on products to ensure the inventory accuracy needed for fast delivery of goods shipments to customers, whether they are receiving products at home or picking them up at a store.

Additionally, NFC-based data on product labels encourages customers to engage with products digitally, as well as physically at stores. "Online stores are realizing they need a physical store," Picon states, with brick-and-mortar spaces where customers can view products, tap their phones against NFC labels and enable conversations directly with online brands.

The Fedrigoni acquisition of Tageos is one of numerous RFID technology company acquisitions that have taken place within the past year (see Always a Bigger Fish). For instance, Brazil's Beontag RFID purchased Confidex, while HID Global acquired Vizinex RFID, and Brady bought Nordic ID (see Label Company Beontag RFID Acquires Confidex, HID Global Expands Footprint with Vizinex RFID Purchase and Brady Corp. Announces Tender Offer to Acquire Nordic ID).

Key Takeaways:

  • The Tageos acquisition has provided an opportunity for Fedrigoni Group to bring intelligence to its products with NFC and RFID technologies.
  • For Tageos, operating under the Fedrigoni umbrella means a broader base of customers worldwide as demand for RFID increases.