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A Toast to RFID

The wine and spirits industry is tagging bottles to authenticate products, connect with customers and improve supply-chain efficiencies.
By Jennifer Zaino
Apr 13, 2015

China has reportedly become the second largest consumer of expensive wine in the world. But many Chinese wine connoisseurs aren't buying what they think they are, because counterfeiters apply fake—sometimes photocopied—labels to bottles of cheap wine or replace the vintage wine in real bottles with a different product. At least half the Château Lafite Rothschild-labeled wines sold in China do not come from France's Bordeaux region, according to Chinese officials, but are made on boats moored in international waters. "There seems to be a new swell of counterfeit wines and spirits in emerging markets like China for very expensive wines," says Eric Przyswa, director at risk05, which conducts technology-oriented analysis of counterfeit issues related to supply-chain and consumer consumption, among other areas.

To help combat fraud, anticounterfeiting identification technology company Selinko is developing an e-commerce website for Chinese consumers. The site will sell wines that use Selinko's Near-Field Communication solution, which leverages an Inside Secure NFC chip combined with a Selinko platform and patent-pending processes to ensure authenticity. "When you go online to order a product, you will have access [through a secure pop-up] to the digital certificate attached to the product," says Gwennaëlle Festraets, VP of marketing and communications at Selinko. "When the bottle is delivered at home, you can scan its NFC tag [with an NFC-enabled mobile phone] to make sure they match. If confirmed, only at that time will the payment be released."

Antonio Sorgato Godeau, Bodegas Toro Albalá winery (Photo: Bodegas Toro Albaláe)
Bodegas Toro Albalá, a luxury vintage and dessert winemaker in Spain's Córdoba countryside, and a major U.K. wine and spirits distributor (as yet unnamed) are the first to have signed up to sell through the platform. "The object is to give the Chinese market a wide range of luxury wine and spirits brands where they can be sure the product is genuine," Festraets says, adding that product authenticity is the first concern of Chinese online shoppers.

Bodegas Toro Albalá is also using Selinko's LabelSeal solution, to ensure authenticity of its bottles sold to real-world consumers and to provide a means to interact with consumers. "I do believe that in the future, wineries will choose the NFC system as it is a product guarantee for the consumer and also for the ease of information that can be offered," says Antonio Sorgato Godeau, the firm's export manager.

Other RFID providers are developing solutions to improve supply-chain efficiencies and inventory management. Like vintage wines and aged spirits, it may take a little time for wine and spirits makers to determine which applications deliver the best business value. Meanwhile, an RFID asset-tracking solution could take hold in the brewery industry.

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