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Wine Consumer Engagement: Ten Things to Know for 2022

Virtual tastings are so 2020. Don’t get us wrong: They’re still a thing. But to do wine consumer engagement right in 2022, winemakers have to do a lot more than ask people to hop on a Zoom call. That’s why today we’re talking about 10 things that are vital to successful wine consumer engagement.

Also, don’t forget that the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium starts today! We’ll be exhibiting with our fellow Antares Vision Group member companies FT System and Applied Vision, so sign up today and visit us at Booth 807.

Ten things to know about wine consumer engagement in 2022

Like our recent “Five Wine Supply Chain Trends for 2022” and “Trends for the Digital Wine Supply Chain” blog posts, we’re not ranking these aspects of wine consumer engagement. They’re all important. Winemakers should consider each carefully when crafting their engagement strategies.

1. Nail your story

Your brand’s story is vital to wine consumer engagement. (All consumer engagement, actually.) It’s the foundation of “the face” and the heart of the personality you’re going to project to your customers and potential customers. What do you want people to know about you? Where is your brand “coming from”? What sets you apart from other brands?

Many of the other aspects of wine consumer engagement we’re discussing today stem from and overlap with the decisions you make about your story. To get this right, expect to do some soul-searching and ask yourself some tough questions about who and what your brand is.

2. Know your customers

It’s Marketing 101, right? If you don’t know who’s buying your products, you’re missing opportunities and wasting money. Today, however, knowing your customers requires elbow grease. You have to devote time and resources to gather information (i.e., data) and develop profiles to inform your wine consumer engagement.

Here’s a handy tool: ALE. It’s an appropriately wine-and-spirits-flavored abbreviation for ask, listen, and engage. Ask consumers questions. Listen — really listen — to their answers, feedback, suggestions, opinions, etc. Importantly, what they say might not jibe with your own vision of your brand, so be willing to adapt and pivot and do the extra work to give people what they want, not what you want them to want.

To engage, pull out all the stops. Social media, of course. But you can also get out into the real world. Talk with sommeliers to see what’s trending with wine lovers. Talk with retailers to learn what people are thinking and buying. For instance, is there a cheaper brand that people are being drawn to? What brands have buzz?

We all know that wine can be a very personal experience. It’s part of its appeal. It’s why people get excited about wine and anticipate the purchase as much as the uncorking. Take advantage of that. Ask, listen, and engage.

3. Customer first, brand second

So, you’ve done the research and know who your customers are. Time to let them know all about your brand, right?

Not really.

Always remember that wine consumer engagement is about the consumer. They are the hero, not you. It can be a difficult lesson to learn, but your job is to guide people toward what they want and demonstrate the value your brand brings. Don’t make it all about you, because it’s not. Give people what they want to see and share, not what you want to show them.

4. Accept that you might not be that special

This might sting. You have to be self-aware. You have to know your strengths and weaknesses. You have look in the mirror and do an honest self-assessment.

What, if anything, makes you unique? Remember, unique means unlike anything else. One of a kind. Are your competitors saying they’re unique while making the same claims you’re making?

Industry observers are noting that wineries are saying the same thing. “Estate-grown,” “multi-generational,” “visionary winemaker,” and “terroir” are on their short list of traits and lingo that are decidedly not unique in the market. You can talk about these things, but don’t pin your identity on them.

Knowing your customers is what will make your brand stand out. What do they like (and dislike) about your wines? Where do they drink your wines? How do they “use” your wines? Are they talking about and sharing your wines on social media? What do they expect from you? Meeting their demands is what will make your brand special.

5. Be yourself

All this said, it is critical to be yourself. Don’t put on airs. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Don’t be a bore. Today’s consumers have a nose for you-know-what. If they get even a whiff of phoniness, watch out. So, you have to be authentic. Keep it real.

6. Focus on sharing

Think of wine consumer engagement as a self-perpetuating chain in which the links are interactions, including sharing between and among your customers. For this to happen, you have to create content that people want to see, experience, and share. The possibilities are virtually limitless — videos, contests, loyalty programs, giveaways, prizes … . Just remember to focus on your consumers, not yourself.

7. Always bring value to consumers

Ask yourself this question every day: What have you done for them lately?

You must always bring value to your customers. “ABV” — another industry-appropriate abbreviation. This means different things to different people, of course. For some, it might mean proving the provenance of your wines and demonstrating that you’re focused on transparency and sustainability. For others, it could mean sharing a picture of your team out in the vineyard or a fun promotion, such as winning a prize for sharing a video. If you’re not always bringing value to your customers, who are the heroes of your wine consumer engagement, you’re going to push them away.

8. Devote resources

Wine consumer engagement isn’t a “set it and forget it” proposition. It shouldn’t be an afterthought delegated to whoever might happen to have some spare time.

You need a person or a team to conceptualize and create content, push it out across all your channels, monitor and analyze reactions, make changes, and respond to what people are saying and asking. You also need to pay attention to what your competitors are doing and saying.

In other words, you have to be fully engaged in your consumer engagement.

9. Business as usual probably won’t cut it

It’s a cliché because it’s true: You have to think outside the box. Running an email campaign* or posting a video on Facebook then kicking back with a nice Pinot to watch your sales boom isn’t how wine consumer engagement works. It’s called consumer engagement for a reason: You want to get a response. You want to build that self-perpetuating chain of interactions. Creativity is key. It’s another reason to devote resources to make sure you’re doing it right.

*A note about email and marketing: Some people say it’s dead; others say it’s alive and well. Only you can decide if it works for your brand and if it should be part of your consumer engagement strategy.

10. Leverage supply chain data

We’ll let you in on our secret: The key to effective wine consumer engagement is your supply chain, which is a goldmine of actionable data.

The basic building block is serialization, which turns every product into what we call a “digital asset.” Each digital asset has a unique digital identity that can be monitored from production all the way to the person who buys it. With rich, traceable data about every item in your supply chain at your fingertips, you can establish and maintain connections with consumers before, during, and after the sale. For example:

    • Link every product to unique content and brand interactions
    • Give consumers the information they demand (e.g., provenance, transparency, sustainability)
    • Hyper-personalize and hyper-target every engagement based on location, time, or purchasing data
    • Empower consumers to reject counterfeits, alert for diversions/gray markets, authenticate products, help with recalls
    • Gain valuable insight into your customers

Final thoughts

“A message in every bottle.” This is rfxcel’s mantra for using your supply chain for wine consumer engagement. Our Traceability System provides granular data from the vineyard all the way into your customers’ daily lives. You can use it to define and tell your story, know your customers and bring them value, and inspire your brand to think outside the box.

If you’re at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium this week, stop by Booth 807 to see our solutions in action and learn more about how we can help your brand stand out in a very crowded market. If you aren’t there, contact us today to schedule a short demo with one of our digital supply chain experts.

You can also read more about why your supply chain is vital for effective consumer engagement and how to leverage it for an effective strategy.

 

Five Wine Supply Chain Trends for 2022

It’s definitely not a Dry January in our blog. As we’re gearing up for next week’s Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, we thought we’d write about wine all month. And what better way to start than to look at wine supply chain trends for 2022?

Before we start, though, we want you to know that we have some complimentary passes for the Symposium (first come, first served). Head over to our sign-up page to find out more. If you attend the show, visit us at Booth 807. Our fellow Antares Vision Group member companies FT System and Applied Vision will be there too. Plus, we’re giving away a few bottles of fine Italian wine.

Now, on to five wine supply chain trends for 2022 (in no particular order).

Consumers will try new things from lesser-known regions

Last year, many wine drinkers may not have been able to find the bottles they wanted. The main culprits were shortages and, um, bottlenecks in the supply chain. People also stocked up on their favorites whenever they had the chance.

As a result, industry experts say that 2022 will be the year consumers expand their palates, trying wines from different regions and makers. This may not necessarily be by choice, but people will adapt to the circumstances. For example, shortages of champagne will make sparkling wines the go-to for those special occasions. And if burgundy isn’t on the shelves, reds from Chile and South Africa could fill the void.

Less expensive wines, more compelling stories

It’s something we’ve been talking about for a long time: Consumers want better value and expect companies to be forthright about how they make their products. And if a brand doesn’t deliver, consumers will drop it without a second thought. Plus, they’ll probably tell their friends and post on social media too, which is never good news for brand protection and consumer engagement.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves just a bit. Less expensive wines and more compelling stories. In 2022, many consumers will be trying to economize while continuing to demand transparency, accountability, and sustainability from the brands they buy. They will also expect more interaction with their brands.

For winemakers, this means supply chain traceability to build an indelible provenance for every bottle and sharing more information about all aspects of their operations, such as how they care for their vineyards, who harvests the grapes, and who crafted the wine inside the bottle.

Innovating to reclaim market share/lure younger drinkers

The rise of “wine alternatives” is a classic market success story — at least it was until the middle of last year. Sales of hard seltzer, for instance, reached $4.5 billion from May 2020 to May 2021. Though there’s been a slowdown in that segment, the fact remains that consumers were lured away from wine; in 2022, the industry will be trying to lure them back.

Winemakers will have to think outside the box to reach these consumers. New products, including “wine proxies” and organics, are one tact. Innovative marketing, such as home delivery services, more ecommerce, and hyper-targeted consumer engagement, will also be key to the wine supply chain.

“Nolo” and “natural” products

We just mentioned “wine proxies” and organics. Both have gained traction in recent years. According to IWSR, the market value of no/low alcohol (Nolo) products in 2021 reached almost $10 billion, up from $7.8 billion in 2018.

The London-based market research group also forecasts that Nolo volume will grow by 8 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2021 and 2025. And total Nolo volume is forecasted to grow by 31 percent by 2024. In contrast, IWSR says “regular” alcohol will grow by 0.7 percent CAGR from 2021 to 2025.

For organic wine, IWSR forecasts that the worldwide market will reach 87.5 million cases by 2022 and account for 4 percent of total consumption by 2024. Certified organic wine volume consumption, it reports, has increased an average of 9 percent annually between 2014 and 2019. The amount of certified area under vine (and in conversion) has also boomed, particularly in Italy, Spain, and France.

And though the Top 5 organic wine markets (Germany, France, the UK, Sweden, and the United States) and the Top 10 markets account for more than 60 percent and 80 percent of global consumption, respectively, the category is expected to expand into other markets.

Visibility, traceability, transparency in the wine supply chain (a.k.a. brand protection and consumer engagement)

The last two years have shown us that visibility, traceability, transparency are more important than ever and are the best way to optimize, safeguard, and leverage your supply chain for business value.

    • Visibility means using data to gain insight into how your supply chain is functioning and to take steps to make it run more efficiently. The goal is to see every ingredient/input, every product, every partner, every handoff … everything.
    • Transparency means communicating supply chain knowledge internally and externally so all stakeholders, including consumers, can see how you operate.
    • Traceability means you can follow a product to its point of origin and prove what it is and where it came from.

For the wine industry, this trifecta is even more crucial, particularly due to the scourge of counterfeits and consumers’ ever-growing demand for accountability. Your supply chain is your No. 1 asset for brand protection and consumer engagement. We’re going to be writing more about these topics in the coming days, so check back soon. In the meantime, you can read our two-part series about traceability in the wine supply chain.

Final thoughts

So, there are five wine supply chain trends to keep an eye on in 2022. (Digitization is another; we’ll be writing about that next, so check back later this week!)

We’re truly excited about the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium. We’ll have a demo of our solutions for the wine supply chain, and FT System and Applied Vision will be exhibiting their technologies too. We do have some complimentary passes and will be giving away a few bottles of fine Italian wine, so sign up today and visit us at Booth 807. We’d love to see you!

And do come back to our blog throughout our decidedly non-Nolo January. Find out why we’re the grand cru of supply chain solutions for winemaking and grapegrowing!

 

 

Top Supply Chain Trends of 2021

The supply chain has been grabbing headlines since the pandemic began, but this year was especially newsworthy. From flotilla-like bottlenecks at major U.S. ports to warnings about counterfeit toys in Santa’s sleigh, it’s been a challenging time for supply chain stakeholders and consumers alike. So, as the year winds down, we thought we’d take a look at some of the top supply chain trends of 2021.

The Year’s Supply Chain Trends

Before we start, please note that this isn’t a ranked list or a “countdown” to the No. 1 supply chain trend of the year. It’s just a collection of trends that have occurred in different industries and that have made industry news as we’ve worked our way through the year. That said, without further ado, here are the top supply chain trends of 2021.

Automation

Automation includes robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, process mining, drones, and driverless delivery systems. This trend dates back to the first half of 2019, when companies in North America spent $869 million on more than 16,000 robots. This year, the World Robotics 2021 Industrial Robots report said there were 3 million industrial robots operating in factories globally, a record number and an increase of 10 percent. The report also said sales of new robots grew 0.5 percent, with 384,000 units shipped globally in 2020.

Blockchain

Blockchain has been a buzzword for years, and worldwide spending on the technology has been predicted to reach more than $11 billion by 2022. In regard to supply chain management, blockchain has great potential for traceability because it allows the provenance of any product to be easily demonstrated with and supported by immutable, tamper-proof data. It’s a big topic, so download our “Blockchain-Based Supply Chain Traceability” white paper to learn more.

Sustainability

There’s been a barrage of research about supply chain sustainability, particularly consumers’ expectations for transparency and environmentally friendly products and packaging. In one recent survey, 83 percent of respondents said it was “important or extremely important” for companies to design environmentally conscious products. Another found that 81 percent of shoppers say transparency is important or extremely important to them. In short, more companies are choosing to make their supply greener and more transparent.

Consumer engagement/customer experience

Consumer engagement and customer experience have always had a place in marketing and branding, but they’ve risen to a priority position over the last several years. (See a tidy summary of why here.) But what does your supply chain have to do with any of this?

The short answer: Your supply chain is a gold mine of information that can be leveraged for robust, innovative engagement/experience strategies. The basic building block is serialization. Read our two-part series to learn more. And definitely read our article about how supply chain traceability is building a “consumer kingdom.”

“The Trifecta”: Traceability, Visibility, Transparency

It should come as no surprise that we’re including these three “must-haves” on our list of the top supply chain trends in 2021. We’ve always maintained that visibility, transparency, and traceability are the key to a successful supply chain; however, the last two years have shown us that this trifecta is more important than ever and is the best way to optimize, safeguard, and leverage your supply chain for business value.

Visibility means using data to gain insight into how your supply chain is functioning and to take steps to make it run more efficiently. The goal is to see every ingredient/input, every product, every partner, every handoff … everything. Transparency means communicating supply chain knowledge internally and externally so all stakeholders, including consumers, can see how you operate. Traceability means you can follow a product to its point of origin and prove what it is and where it came from.

We have written extensively on these topics. Here’s a suggested reading list:

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is a network of physical objects that connects to the internet via sensors and software. It’s the basis of our Integrated Monitoring solution. It enables greater visibility and flexibility across your entire supply chain. For example, IoT-enabled sensors placed in a shipment of vaccines will send a real-time alert if a problem arises, such as a temperature excursion or route diversion. We’ve written about IoT in the food and beverage industry, and rfxcel CEO Glenn Abood wrote a great article about real-time monitoring in the pharma cold chain. We also have a great video about it.

Digitization

If we were ranking the 2021′ supply chain trends, we’d make digitization No. 1. A supply chain that isn’t digitized cannot function efficiently. It cannot give consumers what they demand. It cannot comply with regulations. It cannot compete. It cannot make your business better.

Final Thoughts

As we move toward the New Year, it’s a good time to think about the future of your supply chain. Ask yourself some basic questions:

    • Are you keeping up with the trends we talked about today?
    • Are there gaps and blind spots in your supply chain?
    • Are counterfeits a problem in your industry?
    • Are you doing everything you can to protect your brand?
    • Are you actively reaching out to your customers to bring them closer to your brand?
    • Are there compliance deadlines on the horizon?
    • Are you certain your current supply chain solutions are truly optimal?
    • Are you using your supply chain as a strategic asset?

The next step is to contact us. Our digital supply chain experts can share a short demo of our award-winning Traceability System that will clearly show why it’s the best solution for any business, under any circumstances.

Understanding GS1 Barcodes in the Global Supply Chain

Where would we be without standards? One thing’s certain: Your supply chain would be a lot messier, if not chaotic, if you and your partners didn’t have a “common language” to process and exchange data. Standardized GS1 barcodes are one way we avoid this chaos.

GS1 barcodes keep everybody “on the same page.” They allow companies in virtually every industry to easily record, store, and transfer data. We’ve all seen them, and chances are your organization uses them — maybe even millions or billions of them. But let’s do a quick refresher course as another way to keep us all on the same page.

Why are GS1 barcodes important?

The short answer is, as we said above, standardized GS1 barcodes allow us to maintain order and avoid chaos. Work flows become quicker and more efficient. The GS1 barcodes keep supply chains running by enabling companies to sell, ship, track, reorder, and return products, in most cases by scanning with a handheld device or a camera-based system.

GS1 barcodes also expedite communication, traceability, visibility, and transparency. It’s really all about sharing information quickly in order to know the source of ingredients/components and products, where they’ve been and where they’re going, and when they reach their final destination.

These capabilities not only make supply chains more efficient — they also increase product safety and protect consumers. If there’s a recall, for example, a company can locate its products quickly, make sure shipments are stopped, remove items from stores, and share data with regulators and even consumers.

GS1 barcodes also save money. Administrative costs come down when everybody uses the same standards and has the same expectations. And because GS1 barcodes facilitate digital supply chains, they increase speed and reduce paperwork.

GSI Identification Keys

GS1 standards define a set of unique identification codes, known as identification keys. GS1 says its identification keys “refer unambiguously to a real-world entity,” such as a product, a logistics unit, a physical location, a document, a service relationship, or another entity.

In other words, the ID keys let you quickly and conveniently access information about items in your supply chain and share it with your partners. Only GS1 members can build ID keys, which must include a GS1 company prefix. There are 12 ID keys:

        1. Global Trade Item Number (GTIN): identifies products and services, such as food and clothing
        2. Global Location Number (GLN): identifies parties and locations, such as companies, warehouses, factories, and stores
        3. Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC): identifies logistics units, such as parcels and palletized products
        4. Global Returnable Asset Identifier (GRAI): identifies returnable assets
        5. Global Individual Asset Identifier (GIAI): identifies assets, such as equipment used in manufacturing and transportation
        6. Global Service Relation Number (GSRN): identifies relationships between service providers and recipients, such as hospital staff and members of brand “loyalty” or rewards programs
        7. Global Document Type Identifier (GDTI): identifies documents, such as shipping paperwork
        8. Global Identification Number for Consignment (GINC): identifies consignments, such as logistics units being transported in a container on a ship or airplane
        9. Global Shipment Identification Number (GSIN): identifies shipments
        10. Global Coupon Number (GCN): identifies coupons
        11. Component/Part Identifier (CPID): identifies components and parts
        12. Global Model Number (GMN): identifies a product’s model number

The GS1 standards also encompass data capture, including definitions of barcode and radio-frequency identification (RFID) data carriers, that allow ID keys and other data to be affixed directly to an object. Data standards also address the hardware to read and produce barcodes (e.g., scanners and printers), and hardware and software to connect the barcodes and RFID tags to business applications.

The different types of GS1 barcodes

All GS1 barcodes are “containers” that can hold different amounts information, such as serial numbers, batch numbers, GTINs, and expiration dates. As the image below from GS1 shows, there are four types, or “families,” of barcodes: EAN/UPC, two-dimensional (2D), DataBar, and one-dimensional (1D).

GS1 barcodes

EAN/UPC family. GS1 says, rightly, that these “are printed on virtually every consumer product in the world.” They are characterized by a series of vertical lines and a horizontal row of numbers, and come in four types: UPC-A, EAN-13, UPC-E, and EAN-8.

These GS1 barcodes are designed to be used at the point of sale and can be read by omnidirectional scanners. None support attributes — they cannot contain product information such as an expiration date, a batch number, or item weight. UPC-A has 12 numbers and supports GTIN-12; EAN-13 has 13 numbers and supports GTIN-13; UPC-E has 12 numbers (the zeros are “suppressed) and supports GTIN-12; and EAN-8 has 8 numbers and supports GTIN-8.

2D barcodes. Like EAN/UPC barcodes, 2D barcodes are ubiquitous. They are incredibly robust, able to hold dense product information and remain legible at greatly reduced sizes or when they’re etched into a surface, such as a plastic bottle cap. There are two kinds of 2D barcodes:

      1. GS1 DataMatrix codes are omnidirectional and support attributes and all GS1 ID keys. They can hold 3,116 numeric or 2,335 alphanumeric characters.
      2. GS1 QR codes are also omnidirectional and support attributes and all GS1 ID keys. They can hold 7,089 numbers or 4,296 alphanumeric characters.

DataBar family. There are seven members in the DataBar family. Generally, they’re divided into two groups: those designed for use at the point of sale (i.e., can be read by omnidirectional scanners) and those that are not.

The first group has four types: omnidirectional, stacked omnidirectional, expanded, and expanded stacked.

      • Omnidirectional and stacked omnidirectional have 14 numbers. They support GTINs and Global Coupon Numbers (GCNs) but do not support attributes.
      • Expanded and expanded stacked have a maximum capacity of 74 numeric and 41 alphabetic characters. They support GTINs and GCNs, but do support attributes.

There are three types of barcodes in the second group: truncated, limited, and stacked. These have 14 numbers and support GTINs, but do not support attributes. They are not designed for use at the point of sale, so they cannot be read by omnidirectional scanners.

1D barcodes. The two types of 1D barcodes — GS1-128 and ITF-14 — are used in retail distribution, healthcare, and logistics. GS1-128 barcodes can carry any GS1 ID key and up to 48 alphanumeric characters, including serial numbers, expiration dates, and other information that helps track products through a supply chain. More than one GS1-128 barcode can be used on a single item. ITF-14 barcodes can hold only GTINs; GS1 says it is suitable for printing on corrugated materials.

Final thoughts

This year was the 50th anniversary of the GTIN. As GS1 said, “It is no exaggeration to say that the development of the GTIN set the stage for global, digitalized commerce.” Indeed, labeling standards and barcode technologies have evolved and advanced since 1971 to the great benefit of businesses and consumers alike.

We have been talking about the advantages of end-to-end traceability in a digital supply chain for a long time. When your products, labeled with powerful identifiers such as 2D DataMatrix codes, move through a digital supply chain powered by our award-winning Traceability System, you can leverage rich, unit-level data for much more than compliance and operational efficiency: You can create genuine, tangible business value. For example:

That’s really just the beginning of what a digital supply chain can do. To learn more, contact us today to see a short demo of our solutions. Our supply chain experts will show you how our Traceability System transforms your supply into your most valuable strategic asset.

Brand Protection Strategies and Your Supply Chain

Welcome to Part II of our brand protection series. In Part I, we talked about the top supply chain threats that brand protection strategies must address: counterfeits, diversion, theft, and insufficient traceability.

Today, we’re talking about the supply chain solutions that combat these threats — solutions that should be integral to your brand protection strategies.

A holistic supply chain approach to brand protection strategies

Your supply chain is the embodiment of your business. If it’s not healthy, your brand can’t be healthy. You need to be able to continuously scan it, diagnose it, and take immediate action should a threat arise.

Fine-tuned digital supply chain solutions are the answer. Working together from end to end, they create a “central nervous system” that monitors and senses every touch point in real time while collecting and sharing data to inform your next move.

Serialization, real-time monitoring, and end-to-end traceability are the key solutions that help mitigate supply chain threats and provide the intelligence for effective brand protection strategies. Let’s take a look.

Serialization

Serialization is the building block of a secure supply chain and effective brand protection strategies. By assigning a unique serial number to each product, you create what rfxcel calls a “digital asset” with a unique digital identity. Every product can be linked to virtually any information you want, such as its origin, when it was harvested or manufactured, its lot number, and its expiration date.

Serialization also enables you to track every individual unit through your entire supply chain, from production to retail distribution to the final consumer and beyond. It creates a barrier to fight counterfeits and fakes and contributes to end-to-end traceability that eliminates blind spots and locks down your supply chain.

Serialization also fuels brand protection strategies because you can leverage each digital asset for consumer engagement to build confidence and trust. As we said in Part I of our consumer engagement series, your customers are absolutely a part of brand protection, and serialization empowers them in three important ways.

First, it’s the basis of an indelible, demonstrable, shareable product provenance that proves that your product is what you say it is and gives consumers the information they demand.

Second, as we discussed in Part II of our consumer engagement series, your serialized product is a device for one-on-one communication with your customers. For example, with a quick smartphone scan of a 2D Data Matrix code, a person can access rich data about your product and exclusive content through which they’ll establish and build a relationship with your brand.

Third, serialization lets you “crowdsource” brand protection through your consumer engagement activities. For example, if a person scans a product and the scan doesn’t work or they’re taken to a suspect website or other suspicious content, you can incentivize them to contact you and report that something is wrong. This is actionable, granular data that will protect your brand.

Real-time monitoring

A blind spot in your supply chain creates opportunities for trouble. Common blind spots include deviations from prescribed routes and harmful environmental conditions. The solution is real-time monitoring.

rfxcel’s Integrated Monitoring solution paints a vibrant, detailed picture of where your products are and what is happening to them. It provides better data, continuity, visibility, and security to protect your products and consumers. With detailed, unit-level data coming in around the clock, you’ll understand and immediately act upon specific risks.

It works like this: Pallets, cases, or unit-level items are equipped with Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled sensors that send data over communication networks at regular intervals. The sensors provide real-time information about how long an item has been in transit, if the transport vehicle is sticking to its approved route, if the shipment stopped and for how long, and environmental conditions such as temperature, light, humidity, and shock. If something is not as it’s supposed to be, the sensors transmit an alert so you can halt shipments that may have been adulterated and redirect shipments to keep products safe. You’ll protect your customers and safeguard your brand.

Check out our short videos about our Integrated Monitoring solution for the pharmaceutical and food and beverage industries.

End-to-end traceability

End-to-end traceability in a digital supply chain means you can design end-to-end brand protection strategies.

With a suite of solutions acting in concert — like our Traceability System — you’ll create a full, traceable provenance for every product. You can add critical tracking events and key data elements at any point in your supply chain. For example, add a photo of a product as it leaves the factory or integrate a quality inspection to enrich the data associated with the product. Consumers can access this information and confirm that your product is what you say it is. This burnishes your reputation and builds trust with the people who buy your products or are thinking about buying your products.

rfxcel Traceability System

And there are numerous other benefits of end-to-end traceability. If you can see every part of your supply chain from one end to the other, you’ll be able to manage operations more efficiently, including dealing with recalls and other crisis situations. You’ll make it harder for counterfeits and fakes to reach consumers. You’ll consolidate data to improve processes, outcomes, and product quality. And you’ll be empowered to make better decisions based on that data.

Mobile traceability: an on-the-go solution for brand protection strategies

A discussion of brand protection strategies isn’t complete without mentioning mobile traceability. Why? Because if you don’t have access to your supply chain data 24/7, no matter where you are, you’re not shedding light on blind spots and not building a solid perimeter around your brand.

rfxcel’s MobileTraceability solution brings our industry-leading track and trace capabilities to virtually any location, including places that traditionally may not have had absolute visibility in your supply chain, such as remote fields, distribution centers, and warehouses. With unparalleled convenience and speed, it gives you everything you need to keep you supply chain running at optimal efficiency. To learn more, read about what our Mobile Traceability solution can do for the pharmaceutical and food and beverage supply chains.

Final thoughts

A supply chain problem is a brand protection problem. By giving all your products a unique digital identity through serialization, then following and controlling them in real time with integrated monitoring and traceability solutions, you can demonstrate to the world that your brand is strong and reliable. You can build a reputation for integrity and transparency with partners and consumers. You can use data to innovate your brand protection strategies, consumer engagement activities, and every part of your operations.

With rfxcel, you can fortify your brand with data from a digital supply chain. You can combat the threats we’ve discussed no matter where you are and no matter where you supply chain goes. Contact us today to see how our solutions can work for better, stronger brand protection strategies.

Brand Protection Strategy and the Top Supply Chain Threats

We just did two articles about why your supply chain is vital to an effective consumer engagement strategy. Now we want to jump into brand protection strategy and your supply chain.

First, let’s define our terms. Although consumer engagement is a usually a dedicated effort to boost brand recognition and loyalty, it must always be considered part of your brand protection strategy. As we’ll see, getting your customers involved in fighting counterfeits and identifying disreputable sellers and other bad actors is critical. Let’s continue breaking this down.

Why do you need a brand protection strategy?

Do you want to protect your business? Your employees, your bottom line, your reputation, your supply chain, your intellectual property?

Of course you do. Your brand protection strategy is your firewall. It’s how you shield your business from things that can harm it. And many — if not most — of the factors that can harm your brand are directly related to your supply chain. These include counterfeits (also called fakes), diversion, theft, and insufficient traceability.

Top supply chain threats

Let’s take a closer look at the top supply threats your brand protection strategy should address.

Counterfeits and fakes

The joke is that the best way to fight counterfeits is to make products nobody wants to buy.

We know that’s not how it works, though, which is why counterfeits and fakes are the No. 1 brand protection concern. In fact, counterfeits and pirated products accounted for up to 3.3 percent of world trade in 2016.

That statistic comes from a 2019 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) entitled “Trends in Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods.” The OECD also found that trade in counterfeit and pirated goods was rising steadily despite stagnation in overall trade volumes. Based on 2016 customs seizure data, the value of imported fake goods worldwide was $509 billion, up from $461 billion in 2013.

But there’s a lot more to be concerned about. Counterfeits are of inferior quality and often contain harmful, even deadly, materials/ingredients. The people who make them, including children, often work for long hours in sweatshop conditions. Some may have been trafficked or coerced. Furthermore, it has been established that counterfeits are inextricably linked to organized crime.

The pandemic provided many examples counterfeits making their way into the global supply chain — fake vaccines, fake COVID-19 testing kits, fake masks, fake nitrile gloves. But counterfeiting affects every industry, from food and footwear to cosmetics and computers.

Diversion and theft

When your goods are in transit along your supply chain, you want them to reach their final destination as quickly and safely as possible. This is why diversion is another key consideration for a brand protection strategy.

Diversion is actually a two-pronged problem. Let’s use pharmaceuticals to illustrate. Many drugs must be kept within a certain temperature range or maintained under certain lighting or humidity conditions. Even the slightest delay could spell disaster — ruined products, which means patients might not get medicines on time.

Diversion can also indicate theft. If a truck goes off its prescribed route, bad actors might be hijacking it and your product could end up on unauthorized e-commerce sites (rogue websites) and other grey markets or black markets. If the diversion has compromised the integrity of your product — a drug, for example — people’s lives may be jeopardized.

Insufficient traceability

As we’ve discussed before, supply chain traceability brings tangible value to just about every part of your business, including your brand protection strategy. If you’re not taking traceability seriously, you’re not just opening the door to assaults on your brand; you’re risking problems with regulators, alienating (and losing) customers, and weakening your supply chain.

A recall is among the most damaging events that can happen to a brand, so let’s use it as case study. If you can trace a recalled item, you can better collaborate with trading partners and authorities and help to get the product out of the supply chain and out of stores. With traceability, you’re protecting consumers from a health hazard and safeguarding your brand from bad publicity. And with a transparent approach to engaging with customers about your products, you create a strong brand image that conveys trust, credibility, and reliability.

Traceability also helps fight counterfeits, diversion, and theft. The ability to trace and authenticate every product in your supply chain in real time, 24/7, is foundational to an effective brand protection strategy. We’ll get into those details in Part II of our brand protection series.

Final thoughts

At the end of August, the Office of the United States Trade Representative published a request for comments “that identify online and physical markets to be considered for inclusion in the 2021 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy (Notorious Markets List).”

Counterfeits have also been making headlines in recent weeks:

In this environment, a comprehensive brand protection strategy driven by granular supply chain data is your best defense against bad actors. rfxcel understands this. We can help you leverage your supply chain to combat counterfeits and the other concerns we addressed today. Our brand protection solutions will fortify your brand with data from a digital supply chain. Contact us today to learn more — and read Part II of our brand protection series.

Top Reasons Your Supply Chain Is the Key to an Effective Consumer Engagement Strategy

Welcome to Part II of our series about effective consumer engagement. In Part I, we talked about the benefits of consumer engagement. Today, we’re focusing on your supply chain — and how you can use it for a next-level consumer engagement strategy. Let’s jump right in.

It’s all about data from your supply chain

Your supply chain is a gold mine of information that you can leverage for a robust consumer engagement strategy. The basic building block is serialization, which turns each one of your products into what we call “digital assets.” Each digital asset has a unique digital identity that can be monitored from production all the way to the person who buys it.

With rich, traceable data about every item in your supply chain at your fingertips, you can establish and maintain connections with consumers before, during, and after the sale. (You can also do much, much more, but that’s beyond the scope of what we’re talking about today.)

Four ways supply chain data can supercharge your consumer engagement strategy

1. You’ll share the product information that consumers demand. Consumers demand information. Every product — every digital asset — in your supply chain can be “loaded” with data that consumers can access at the store, at home, at a restaurant, at a sporting event. Anywhere. For example, a quick scan of a 2D Data Matrix code or QR code with a smart phone will reveal every detail you want to share about your product: where and when it was grown or made, its ingredients, the route it took to get to the consumer. This demonstrable provenance using supply chain data builds consumer trust and confidence; it is foundational to consumer engagement.

2. You’ll create compelling customer experiences. Consumers also want experiences. With data from your supply chain and other brand resources (e.g., an app) you can curate experiences such as contests, loyalty programs, games, and unique online content. You can encourage storytelling about your brand. If you’re a winemaker, connect people to a virtual tour of your vineyard. If you sell organic foods, share video recipes online or invite people to see your sustainable operations. If you make cosmetics, link to virtual try-ons. Importantly, you can hyper-personalize and hyper-target every engagement, and even “broadcast” specific information to specific locations or events.

3. You’ll communicate directly with consumers. Your serialized product is a device for one-on-one communication with the person who bought it. When a customer accesses the information from your digital asset, you can connect them to your website, social media, an app, a survey, or other forums where they can start a conversation with your brand. They can ask questions and provide feedback — and you can give answers and reactions. Relationship-building is another cornerstone of an effective consumer engagement strategy, and the products people are literally holding in their hands are the first step of the conversation.

4. You’ll gain valuable insight into your customers. An effective consumer engagement strategy creates a world for your customers. And as they navigate and participate in that world, they share information. Where are they buying your products? What do they like? What don’t they like? What inspires them? What engagement activities resonated the most? This business intelligence can inform every part of your business, from how your supply chain works to creating better consumer engagement strategies.

Final thoughts

The purchase used to be the last part of your supply chain; now it’s the beginning of a new realm of possibilities. Every digital asset is an opportunity to connect your customers to your brand and put your products front and center in their lives.

rfxcel’s Traceability System is an end-to-end supply chain solution that creates the digital assets. It gives you in-depth, real-time insights all the way from production to your final customers. The data you connect to your products will fuel compelling consumer engagement activities that can reach people everywhere you do business.

And now, as part of Antares Vision Group, we can offer even more ways to engage with consumers. Contact us today to find out more.

 

BONUS CONTENT!

Last year, we did a piece called “Supply-Chain Traceability Is Building a New Kind of Consumer Kingdom.” Here’s an excerpt that ties into what we’ve said about an effective consumer engagement strategy:

In fact, consumers are not only thinking deeply about where the things they buy come from and what goes into making them, they are actually becoming a pivotal part of the supply chain itself. What’s more, they’re participating willingly and with gusto, demanding detailed information about the goods they purchase and even expecting to interact with products far beyond the point of sale. Just how far will they go to get what they want? More than 70% of customers say they’re willing to share their data in exchange for a more personalized experience, according to one recent survey.

Read the full article here.

3 Benefits of Supply Chain Traceability for Your Business

Imagine for a minute that you get the phone call all companies dread. It’s the “I am dissatisfied with my product” call, direct from a customer. You take the call, help the customer, and move on, right? You’re feel good about solving the problem — and are definitely not thinking about supply chain traceability.

A few days go by, then you’re flooded with more complaints, none of which seem to be related. You scramble to identify the root cause of all your problems, but you don’t know where to look. What should you do?

This is when you should be thinking about supply chain traceability. It is the key to having total insight into how your products get made, where they’ve been, and where they’re going. By employing supply chain traceability, you can:

  • Assure your brand and customers are protected
  • Maintain regulatory compliance
  • Pinpoint common problems, such as counterfeits and diversion

Let’s take a deeper look into each of these benefits.

1. Supply chain traceability for brand protection and customer satisfaction

Customers grade a brand on both the quality of its products and how it responds when an issue arises. Brands build loyalty with their customers by being transparent and demonstrating consistent product and service quality. Brands lose customers by failing to respond to complaints and recalls.

Response to complaints and recalls

Supply chain traceability is helpful when investigating a customer complaint. It is also essential when assessing a potential recall or managing an actual recall.

All the products you make and sell must have identification that traces back their source. Manufacturers and retailers can follow a problematic unit backward through its life cycle. Information collected through traceability includes:

  • Date and time of manufacturing
  • Equipment used for manufacturing and packaging
  • Personnel involved in manufacturing and packaging
  • Raw materials and components
  • Physical locations of inventory throughout its life

In a best-case scenario, the complaint is an isolated incident that’s easy to fix. But if the complaint means there’s been a breakdown somewhere or a product has been compromised, a recall may be triggered.

Recalls happen for any number of reasons. For example, you might discover a material that is out of specification. Once identified, it is necessary to trace all usage of that material. Another example is contamination, especially in the food supply chain.

A recall of any size can have a significant impact on your business. Having a supply chain traceability system will speed recalls, improve cooperation with regulators and other authorities, enable better information-sharing with your customers, and reduce damage to your brand reputation. Faster batch recalls are possible only when there is a robust supply chain traceability system.

Transparency about sourcing

A study conducted by the Consumer Goods Forum found that “70 percent of consumers are most interested in transparency about products.” Customers want to know where the materials used in their products came from and how they were sourced.

Some companies are publishing reports to make their supply chains and operations more transparent — and to make their brand more appealing to consumers. In addition to how they source materials, they’re sharing information about things such as:

  • Origins and purposes of raw ingredients
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Safe handling practices along the supply chain
  • The brand’s mission and values

This type of “transparency marketing” is effective in the food and consumer packaged goods industries, as it entices consumers to make a purchase because they’re getting the product information they demand.

A 2016 study by Label Insight indicated that 94 percent of consumers are not only likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency but are willing to pay more for products that meet such standards. This has powerful implications for brands; it shows that transparency made possible with supply chain traceability inspires product and brand loyalty.

2. Supply chain traceability is key to compliance

Being able to track material movement and consumption is critical for regulatory compliance.

The ISO 9000 Standards Series is the basis for most industries’ standards and provides expectations to help companies structure their quality management systems. Within these standards, traceability is defined as “The ability to trace the history, application, use and location of an item or its characteristics through recorded identification data.”

To meet this standard, it’s critical to be able to identify individual product units. Also, you must collect information about subcomponents. This information will allow for the tracing of parts of products throughout your supply chain.

Serialization makes supply chain track and trace easier

Serialization is the process of assigning unique identifiers to outbound and inbound materials. This makes the parts of products easier to track and trace throughout your processes. Utilizing software such as our Serialization Processing solution will save you time and effort in managing your supply chain.

Collecting supply chain data on your materials and finished products can also help to identify problems before they become an issue. This empowers you to be proactive and assess what works well (or what does not work well) throughout your entire supply chain process, which allows you to standardize your work processes and cut out waste.

Prove your product claims

Marketing claims must be substantiated, not only to consumers but also to regulatory agencies. Claims about sustainable sourcing, organic certifications, and other attributes can be demonstrated with supply chain traceability. Safe and compliant handling of products is also best demonstrated with traceability. Many retailers and manufacturers have routine audits to assure that they have processes to trace a product’s life cycle. In some industries, the results of these audits are available as public information.

Regulations evolve over time

Regulatory requirements for the documentation of traceability are constantly evolving. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published the “Proposed Rule for Food Traceability,” which called for additional traceability records for certain foods. The FDA is encouraging the voluntary adoption of these new practices for all food products. These new requirements will affect all who manufacture, process, pack, or hold foods.

We’ve written extensively about the FDA’s push for traceability in modern food supply chain. For example, check out “Food Traceability Regulations in the United States: A Timeline.”

rfxcel is prepared to help you comply with all current and future requirements in any industry, including food and beverage, life sciences/pharmaceuticals, government, and consumer goods. We track industry regulations and guidance documents for upcoming and proposed legislation. We have software solutions that take the guesswork out of compliance no matter where you do business.

3. Combat counterfeits and diversion/theft by identifying supply chain weak spots

One of the worst things that can happen to any business is having their products counterfeited or stolen.

Counterfeits not only result in a direct loss of sales, but your customers might lose faith in your brand. If a person winds up with an inferior counterfeit product with your name and logo on it, there’s a good chance they will be dissatisfied with your brand and take their business somewhere else. And if your products are diverted or stolen, then you’re losing money and might have a much larger supply chain problem on your hands.

Supply chain traceability is like a forensic tool to help fight counterfeits and diversion — and host of other problems. Here’s how it works:

  • You know the origin of your ingredients. You can verify that all ingredients or components are legitimate. You can see the history of any ingredient, including its origin and when it was combined with other ingredients to make a finished product.
  • You can trace a product’s every move. Traceability means you can see everywhere a product has been before, during, and after it was harvested or manufactured. You can see every case or box, every pallet, every delivery vehicle, every stop along the supply chain (e.g., a warehouse, a retail store, a pharmacy or hospital). Even after a product has been unloaded from the delivery vehicle and taken out of cases or boxes, you see where individual units have been right up to the time the consumer takes possession (check-out at the cash register, dispensation at a clinic, etc.).
  • You can pinpoint where a product might have been harmed or compromised. Traceability data will show if a shipment strayed from its prescribed route, which could indicate theft or other mischief that could harm your bottom line and brand. Serialization, compliance, real-time monitoring, and other supply chain traceability solutions create a provenance that can demonstrate the legitimacy and purity of every product.

Final thoughts

We hope you have a better idea of how supply chain traceability can help your brand and business. Traceability is a crucial aspect of managing your business operations.

Are you ready to get started? Setting up your own supply chain traceability system might seem daunting, but rfxcel is here to help. We have easy-to-use, scalable solutions for all of your track and trace needs, no matter what industry you’re in.

Contact us today if you would like to see a short demo of how we can help you to build an effective traceability system. Together, we can protect your brand, ensure regulatory compliance, and fight counterfeits and theft.

Dairy Traceability in 2021: The FDA, the Industry, and the Future

It’s June, and it’s definitely ice cream season! It was 96°F (35°C) at our headquarters in Reno, Nevada, yesterday. Naturally, when we think of ice cream, we think about dairy traceability. Dairy traceability ensures consumer safety and keeps vital supply chains moving.

Most of our readers can probably assume that their food was manufactured, processed, transported, and stored safely and in accordance with quality standards and safety regulations. But the World Health Organization estimates that 600 million people are sickened from contaminated food products every year — and as many as 420,000 die. Dairy products are among the biggest culprits, as they can carry pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses.

The implications are significant. And they illustrate why dairy traceability is so important. Let’s take a look at where we are with dairy traceability in 2021.

Dairy traceability: the industry perspective

Dairy traceability has been on the industry’s radar for quite some time. For example, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has been an advocate since at least 2009, when its Globalization Report noted that traceability was, in so many words, the future of the dairy supply chain.

In 2013, the Center published Guidance for Dairy Product Enhanced Traceability. Now in its third iteration (July 2020), it addresses much of what the FDA wants, including establishing and maintaining records with key data elements (KDEs) associated with critical tracking events (CTEs). There’s also a 21-point Dairy Traceability Checklist that manufacturers can use to evaluate if they follow enhanced dairy traceability best practices.

Last, the Center created the U.S. Dairy Traceability Commitment, “designed by processors, for processors, to increase global competitiveness, help satisfy future requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and, in the rare event of a safety issue, quickly isolate products to protect public health and prevent brand damage.”

Dairy traceability: the FDA perspective

Traceability — including dairy traceability — and modernization have also been on the FDA’s radar. We’ve written about this before, so we won’t drill down into the details today. In a nutshell:

The new requirements, also known as the Food Traceability Proposed Rule, apply to many popular cheeses, including brie, camembert, feta, mozzarella, Monterey Jack, cottage cheese, ricotta, and queso fresco.

Dairy traceability in 2021

Just about a year after the FDA announced its New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy updated its Guidance for Dairy Product Enhanced Traceability, it’s clear the dairy industry and the FDA are trying to get on the same page.

Generally, the industry has been receptive to the FDA’s efforts. The International Dairy Foods Association, for example, supports the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint. Still, many in the industry say the Food Traceability Proposed Rule isn’t necessary because supply chain stakeholders have been modernizing and building traceability systems without a government mandate.

With that in mind, the International Dairy Foods Association submitted comments to the FDA asking it to revise the recordkeeping requirements, arguing that doing so would support more widespread adoption of dairy traceability across the industry, to the ultimate benefit of the public. The Association is also working with the FDA to ensure dairy manufacturers have the proper direction and tools that support more efficient food safety practices and dairy traceability protocols.

Final thoughts

This quick sketch of dairy traceability makes two things clear. First, the FDA is all-in on modernization and traceability. Second, the industry understands the need for dairy traceability and has shown its willingness to commit to maintaining a modern, traceable supply chain.

In this environment, rfxcel’s traceability solutions will help dairy companies in any market modernize their food safety protocols, facilitate end-to-end traceability in a digital supply chain, comply with evolving regulations, and maintain trust with customers. Contact us for more information about how we can help, and check back soon for more about traceability in the food supply chain.

 

Saudi Arabia’s Traceability Requirements for Imported Food

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia imports about 80 percent of its food, according to a June 2020 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To prevent food-borne illnesses and increase visibility in the food supply chain, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) strictly regulates imported food.

Let’s take a look at what food companies must do to comply with SFDA regulations when shipping their products to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia’s requirements for imported food

The Department of Agriculture report lists the following import procedures. First, companies must create an “E-account” with the SFDA and register their food products. They must have a Commercial Register, which includes imports and distribution of food
products. They must also submit an original invoice certified by a chamber of commerce in their home country. Last, depending on the product being imported, the may be asked to present some of following certificates:

  • Certificate of origin (copy)
  • Halal certificate (original). A Halal certificate is proof that the product meets Islamic Law requirements and is acceptable for consumption in Muslim-majority countries, as well as Western countries with a large Islamic population.
  • Certificate of slaughtering for meat and poultry (original)

Other requirements for imported food items

The GCC Standardization Organization (GSO) was established in 2001 and began operations in 2004. It is exactly what its name says: a standards organization for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members. GSO requirements for Saudi Arabia’s imported foods are listed below. Many of these regulations also apply to domestic food items.

GCC Standards Organization (GSO) 9/2007

Since the end of 2010, Saudi Arabia has enforced the Gulf Standard 9/2007. Per this standard, all prepackaged and domestic foods must at minimum contain the following data points:

  • Product name
  • Packer’s name
  • Country of origin or manufacture
  • Listing of ingredients
  • Instructions for use (if applicable)
  • Shelf life

GSO 2233/2018 requirements for nutritional labeling

In 2013, the SFDA began enforcing GSO 2233/2012, a regulation from the GSO that requires labels to clearly disclose a product’s nutritional information (e.g., calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) that may affect its nutritional value and consumers’ health or safety. The labels must list the ingredients, and nutritional information must be presented in a standardized, easy-to-read table so customers can readily understand what they’re purchasing. The labeling is also designed to increase people’s nutritional education to improve overall health. Some products are exempt from labeling, including bottled water, fresh fruits and vegetables, one-nutrient foods such as rice and coffee, and foods for special dietary uses, including infant formula.

Final thoughts

Keeping up with food traceability and regulations in Saudi Arabia — or any market — is a challenge. But rfxcel can help. Our solutions for food and beverage cover everything from farm to fork, from compliance to environmental monitoringContact us to book a demo of our award-winning rfxcel Traceability System and see how this  customizable, scalable platform will simplify and accelerate all of your supply chain operations.