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Wine Brand Protection and the Fight Against Counterfeits

Today we’re talking about wine brand protection. Why it’s important for the industry and how to use your supply chain to make it as strong as it can be. Specifically, we’re focusing on counterfeits, an evergreen problem for the industry.

Talking about brand protection is a fitting conclusion to our series of articles about wine and a great way to mark the last day of the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium. Speaking of which, stop by Booth 807 to meet us and our other Antares Vision Group team members, FT System and Applied Vision. We’d love to see you before everybody heads home.

Now on to wine brand protection and the fight against counterfeits.

Why is wine brand protection important?

In the wine industry, your brand is critical to success. Whether you’re a multi-generational operation or the new kid on the block trying to make your mark, it’s one of your most valuable assets.

Your brand tells the story of your wine, from the soil and the vines to the bottle to your customers’ tables. It connects you to your partners and consumers. It sets you apart from your competition. It’s your identity out there in the world.

Alas, wine — and spirts — are under a constant barrage of brand protection threats and challenges. The circumstances range from bad actors trying to rip you off to the ebb and flow of the market and the trends that are defining it as we’ve made our way into the 2020s. Today, we’re focusing on the bad actors. Let us know if you’d like us to write more about factors or have anything to add to our discussion.

Counterfeits and fakes

Counterfeits and fakes are the undisputed champion of threats to wine brand protection. It’s an age-old problem, though industry observers rightly note that the pandemic has created more opportunities for fraud. The increase in online sales, including auctions, and less in-person due diligence because of travel restrictions are two examples.

How is wine counterfeited? Let us count the ways. There can be theft at production and storage sites. Theft and diversion also happen as wine is being delivered across the supply chain.

Counterfeiters also like to misrepresent a wine’s origin, vintage, variety, blend — really anything that distinguishes a brand and increases their chances of making a profit.

“Damaged wines” also manage to get into the marketplace. These might have been stored at the wrong temperature or have torn labels and bad corks. Adulterated or cheap wine is bottled in a prestige package.

In Part 1 of our wine traceability series, we mentioned the notorious Rudy Kurniawan. But the daily reality of counterfeit wine (and spirts) is much less dramatic. Consider these news items:

In 2011, hundreds of bottles of fake Jacob’s Creek wine were seized in the UK. More recently, a shopkeeper in England was fined more than $5,000 for having 142 bottles of fake Yellow Tail on his shelves. He said he bought the wine from a man who popped by his shop in an unmarked van; authorities say he could have profited in excess of $600 by selling the plonk. He didn’t get a receipt or an invoice, and the man in the van has not been found. Interestingly, analysis showed that the bogus Yellow Tail was less than 12 percent alcohol. Real Yellowtail is 13.5 percent. This is another example of how counterfeit wine is adulterated.

In 2020, 4,200 counterfeit bottles of Bolgheri Sassicaia, a prestigious (and very expensive) wine, were seized in operation “Bad Tuscan.” Revealing the international nature of counterfeiting, investigators said the fake wine originated in Sicily, the bottles came from Turkey, and the labels and wooden boxes came from Bulgaria. Furthermore, “The 2010 and 2015 vintages, celebrated by Italian and international critics, were the most prevalent among the fakes.”

As for the spirts industry, fake bourbon is hot right now and authorities nabbed 400+ liters of counterfeit vodka this month in Scotland.

To illustrate the problem more broadly, about 1.7 million liters of counterfeit alcohol was seized in Europe between December 2020 and June 2021. That haul was part of a joint INTERPOL-Europol operation called OPSON X, which netted almost 15,500 tons of illegal products with an estimated street value of nearly $60 million. Upwards of 68,000 checks were carried out by 72 participating countries, resulting in more than 1,000 criminal cases.

The upshot is that up to 20 percent of wine sold worldwide is fake and counterfeits cost the industry as much as $3 billion every year.

What can we do about it?

Counterfeiters and fraudsters exploit weaknesses. This is what gives them openings to assault your brand. The good news is that you can mitigate these weaknesses and gather real-time intelligence for effective brand protection strategies using your supply chain.

Your supply chain mirrors your brand. It’s 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.

Four supply chain solutions in particular are vital for wine brand protection: serialization, real-time monitoring, end-to-end traceability, and mobile traceability.

We talk about these in Part 2 of our brand protection series, “Brand Protection Strategies and Your Supply Chain.” Part 1 talks about top supply chain threats and your brand protection strategy. We encourage you to read these articles, as well as our consumer engagement series.

Final thoughts

Your success and reputation depend on how seriously you take brand protection. This means being able to authenticate every ingredient and every bottle. You have to monitor and prove storage conditions and provenance. You have to have deep, real-time insight into what you’re doing and where your products were, are, and will be. And you have to have the granular data to back up every claim and demonstrate to your customers that your wine is exactly what you say it is.

If you read our “Wine Consumer Engagement: Ten Things to Know for 2022” post from the other day, you saw that our mantra for wine consumer engagement is “A message in every bottle.” For wine brand protection, we like to say that you should tap into the “Brut” force of your supply chain. The short list of benefits includes:

    • Fortify with supply chain data and protect with unique digital IDs
    • Create an indelible provenance and create your product story
    • Monitor in real time 24/7
    • Inspire consumer trust and crowdsource brand protection
    • Leverage IoT to eliminate blind spots
    • Maintain chain of ownership
    • Protect trading partners and consumers

And, of course, combat counterfeits and theft. Contact us today to learn more about pairing your brand with the finest supply chain solution for wine brand protection. Also be sure to read our other articles about the wine supply chain and why your supply chain is vital for effective brand protection and consumer engagement:

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.

And be sure to read our other articles about the wine supply chain and why your supply chain is vital for effective consumer engagement and brand protection:

Trends for the Digital Wine Supply Chain

As we said in our post about wine supply chain trends, it’s definitely not a Dry January in our blog. Today’s topic: the digital wine supply chain.

First, though, we’re excited about exhibiting at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium next week. Head over to our sign-up page. We have some complimentary passes available (on a first-come basis) and we’ll be giving away a few bottles of fine Italian wine at Booth 807! Sign up and visit us at the show!

Now, on to the digital wine supply chain.

What are the benefits of a digital wine supply chain?

If you follow our blog (and we know you do), you know we’ve been talking about the digital supply chain for years. For us, digitization isn’t a fad or a trend; it is the No. 1 most important “thing” you can do for your business.

In broad terms, the benefits of building a digital wine supply chain are visibility, traceability, and transparency; sustainability; optimized efficiency and productivity; and creating value and enabling new business models.

It’s important to note that visibility, traceability, and transparency make all the other benefits possible. This “trifecta” in a digital wine supply chain enables longevity, brand strength, innovation, and compliance.

Digital wine supply chain trends

We’re not ranking these digital wine supply chain trends, just noting some of the most important and prominent technologies that are driving the industry. This is also a very high-level summary, as getting into granular details is far beyond the scope of our blog. If you have any questions or want more information, contact us!

Furthermore, these technologies are important in every supply chain. It doesn’t matter what your business is: a digital supply chain is your most important strategic asset.

Blockchain

If you had to describe blockchain in one word, it would probably be “security.” Specifically, it’s about forwarding (i.e., sharing, utilizing) encrypted data that’s virtually impossible to corrupt, alter, or otherwise modify. For details about what it is and how it works, download our “Blockchain-Based Supply Chain Traceability” white paper.

For the digital wine supply chain, blockchain’s primary appeal — as you might have guessed — concerns visibility, traceability, and transparency. Put simply, it’s a powerful tool to verify everything in your supply chain, from the vineyard to distribution to final sale to the person who will be pouring your wine into a glass. It makes traceability accessible and verifiable for everyone in the chain (e.g., your trading partners).

Blockchain has other applications, such automatically verifying, validating, and enforcing contracts. These “smart contracts” can be implemented throughout the digital wine supply chain, to set up and confirm deliveries and pay suppliers, for example. There’s even been some buzz about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the wine industry.

Adoption of blockchain is far, far from universal. People still don’t fully understand what it is, how it works, and the value it can bring. However, the consensus seems to be that it will blossom and proliferate during the 2020s. Nowadays, data is king; blockchain safeguards data, so keep it on your radar.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT technology puts you everywhere your supply chain goes. It’s the heart of real-time data collection, monitoring, adjusting, risk mitigation, and brand empowerment.

For the wine industry, this means using sensors to cultivate “smart vineyards” and build a supply chain with end-to-end visibility, traceability, and transparency. (Are you detecting a theme?) For example, IoT-enabled sensors can be buried in soil, embedded in vines, or hung in leaves to monitor environmental conditions, collect data, forecast weather conditions, reduce risks during harvesting, and improve productivity.

IoT also promotes sustainability, including water and soil conservation and lowering/eliminating pesticides; combined with satellite imaging, these capabilities safeguard vineyards and promote sustainability.

IoT has applications in every facet of the wine the supply chain. The upshot is data. Lots and lots of data. Collected and transmitted in real time, the data tells you exactly what’s happening in every part of your operations on land, air, and sea.

E-labels and e-certificates

Electronic labels, or e-labels, make life easier for everyone: You, your employees, your trading partners, regulators, packaging designers, graphic designers, and your customers. They are foundational to the digital wine supply chain. And because they replace multiple paper labels, e-labels are better for the environment and promote sustainability.

DataMatrix codes and QR codes are examples of e-labels. Essentially, they can be “loaded” with information about ingredients, product provenance, traceability data, compliance data — virtually anything. They can also link to social media, websites, apps, rewards programs, and special content such as videos. E-labels are an all-in-one solution for every member of the digital wine supply chain.

Importantly, e-labels are powerful tools to fight fraud and counterfeits, problems that have a huge negative impact on the wine industry. Full traceability data, accessible with a single scan by a supply chain partner or a consumer in a store, proves a that a bottle of wine is genuine. E-labels are critical to our trifecta of traceability, transparency, and visibility.

A good case study is the EU’s “U-label” digital platform, which allows wine and spirts producers to easily create e-labels (in this case QR codes) and give consumers product information in their native language. It’s a collaborative effort of the Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins (CEEV), the association representing the European wine industry, and SpiritsEUROPE, whose mission is to “represent, defend and promote the European spirits sector and help members achieve sustainable business growth.”

For a deep dive on QR codes, DataMatrix codes, and other barcodes, read our “Understanding GS1 Barcodes in the Global Supply Chain” blog post.

Electronic certificates are similar to e-labels. They too are “loaded” with data that prove a product meets certain requirements and certifies key information such as origin, import-export status, tax status, and sanitary/phytosanitary compliance.

In the wine industry, common certificates include certificates of origin, free sale certificates, quality certificates, organic certificates, and environmental certificates/certifications. However, the industry has not established standards for e-certificates and to a large degree still relies on a paper-based system.

With the push for a digital wine supply chain, standard-making bodies for e-certificates should consider what certifications to include (e.g., origin, export, quality, sanitary), relevant categories of information (e.g., producer, brand, batch, Harmonized System code), and how the information will be exchanged (e.g., through central hubs).

Other things to watch in the digital wine supply chain

We’ve run out of space for now, but here are few other things to keep an eye on as the digital wine supply chain evolves.

    • Artificial intelligence to manage and process data, monitor crops, make decisions about watering and fertilizing, predictive maintenance on lines, warehouse management, and distribution
    • Robotics in planting, fertilizing, pruning, harvesting, and warehousing
    • Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and satellite imaging for “digital cartography” to monitor land use, study the effects of climate change, conduct surveys, track diseases, generate thermal and infrared imaging
    • Creating “digital assets” to leverage in brand protection and consumer engagement strategies. Note: Our upcoming articles will discuss this in detail.

Final thoughts

The wine industry has always maintained a balance between tradition and innovation. Winemakers, grapegrowers, and other stakeholders want to preserve the past while embracing current and developing technologies.

The digital wine supply chain brings the industry the best of both worlds: Technology ensures traditions endure. But technology also creates new traditions for traceability, transparency, visibility, and sustainability — the very things that, as we said at the outset, enable longevity, brand strength, innovation, and compliance.

Contact us today to learn more. And be sure to read our other articles about the wine supply chain and why your supply chain is vital for effective consumer engagement and brand protection:

 

Antares Vision Digital Supply Chain

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!

 

Why We Need Wine Industry Track and Trace, Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of our wine industry track and trace miniseries. In Part 1, we talked about how track and trace technology can help protect the wine supply chain by building product provenance, fighting counterfeits and illicit trade, streamlining logistics, and building consumer confidence and trust.

Part 2 gets into the details of the wine supply chain — its key actors and their responsibilities for wine industry track and trace. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started.

The wine supply chain, defined

The wine supply chain has the same core stakeholders as other supply chains: producers, distributors, and retailers. In its 2009 Wine Supply Chain Traceability Guideline, GS1 says these can be characterized as large companies with “significant technology requirements”; small- to medium-sized enterprises, many with niche specialty products and branding; and “support companies that provide materials, transportation, storage, and other services that are also impacted by traceability.”

GS1 further divides the supply chain into seven stakeholders: grape growers, wine producers, bulk distributors, transit cellars, fillers/packers, distributors, and retail stores. We describe these below, including their roles in wine industry track and trace.

Supply chain actors and their roles in wine industry track and trace

Ingredients and final products can change hands many, many times, so all actors must keep meticulous records and follow GS1 labeling standards to ensure wine industry track and trace. The requirements do get complicated, but there are a few fundamentals to keep in mind:

  • Global Location Numbers (GLNs)
  • Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs)
  • Serial Shipping Container Codes (SSCCs)
  • Application Identifiers (AIs)
  • GS1-128 barcodes
  • Human-readable codes
  • Universal Product Codes (UPCs) and European Article Numbers (EANs)
Grapegrowers

Grapegrowers are responsible for the production, harvest, and delivery of grapes. Wine industry track and trace begins with them, so they must keep detailed records about receiving, shipping, and the vineyard itself. The latter includes the type of vines, annual production record, origin and chemical content of water used for cleaning and irrigation, and treatments (e.g., fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides).

Key data for track and trace describes the “plot” or “block” where grapes are grown. This land is identified with a GLN allocated by the grower and should include five pieces of information:

  1. The vineyard’s name and address
  2. The identifier for the plot
  3. Size of the plot/number of vines
  4. Vine variety
  5. Contact details

Every shipment of grapes the growers send should have a GLN and the date of harvest so the receiving winery can have this provenance for the wine it makes.

Wine producers

Wine producers receive the grapes and produce, manufacture, and/or blend wine products. Key wine industry track and trace data follows the grapes as they’re transformed into wine, so producers must keep accurate records of the procedures they use to make every wine. This includes:

  • The grape growers’ GLNs
  • The wine producer’s own GLN
  • The location(s) at the winery where grapes or juice are processed, including de-stemming, crushing, chilling, and pressing
  • A GTIN for each product
  • An SSCC for shipping containers (e.g., tanker trucks)
  • An AI (315n) to indicate the quantity dispatched in liters
  • An AI (10) to indicate the batch number
Bulk distributors

Bulk distributors receive wine in bulk from wine producers and send it to transit cellars. They also store, dispatch, process, sample, and analyze bulk wine. The wine they receive has been identified with a GTIN and a batch number; like their downstream and upstream trading partners, they must keep records about what they receive and dispatch, including recording the SSCCs and AIs associated with bulk wine containers.

Bulk distributors are identified with GLNs. Bulk wine containers, such as storage tanks, may hold only one product, or they may hold mixed products with mixed batch numbers; these have different labeling requirements. Generally, they’re identified with an SSCC allocated by the bulk distributor. When put into barcode form, the SSCC is “represented in a GS1-128 symbol.” The containers may also require a GTIN and AIs for batch and quantity.

Transit cellars

Transit cellars are responsible for the receipt, storage, dispatch, processing, sampling, and analysis of bulk wine, plus keeping records about what they receive and dispatch. They may be part of a filler/packer company at the same site or at another location. They can also be a third-party service provider.

For wine industry track and trace, every container a transit cellar sends must be identified with an SSCC, a GTIN, a batch number, and the quantity of wine in liters. This information is encoded in a GS1-128 barcode and in human readable form. To ensure track and trace in the wine industry, transit cellars must record every SSCC, GTIN, and batch number of every item they ship.

Fillers/Packers

Fillers/Packers receive containers of bulk wine from a bulk distributor or a transit cellar. Their job is to put the wine into smaller containers, such as bottles, bags, kegs, and barrels, then send cases, cartons, pallets, or “other logistics units” to finished goods distributors. For wine industry track and trace, here are how these units should be labeled:

  • Cases and cartons sold at retail are identified with a GTIN and a barcode with an EAN/UPC symbol. A lot number encoded in a GS1-128 barcode should also applied as an “add-on.” Cases and cartons that will not be sold at retail are identified with AIs and GTINs encoded in a GS1-128 barcode.
  • Pallets are marked with SSCCs. Filler/Packers can also include a GS1-128 barcode with AIs containing other information that maintains the parent-child relationship between the pallet and its contents.
  • Point-of-sale units (e.g., bottles, cans, jugs, bags in boxes) are identified with a GTIN and have a barcode with an EAN/UPC symbol for scanning at the time of purchase. In the EU and elsewhere, units must display a lot number assigned during the filling process. This information can be in human readable form.

Fillers/Packers also receive the “dry goods” that come in contact with wine, such as bottles, caps, and corks, and must label them with SSCCs, GTINs, and batch numbers. Fillers/Packers also have to record other information about dry goods, such as the water used to wash filling equipment and any chemicals used for cleaning.

Distributors

Distributors receive, store, and dispatch finished goods to retailers. They are also responsible for inventory management, and may repack or re-label goods at a retailer’s request.

If cases, cartons, and pallets are not broken up before being shipped to a retailer, the identification from the filler/packer (e.g., SSCC, GTIN, EAN/UPC symbols) does not change. If items are repacked, each gets a new SSCC. (The original SSCC must be crossed out or obscured). Distributors must record the SSCC, GTIN, and lot number of the items they ship and link these to the GLN of the recipient.

The “Traceability data and GS1 Standards” for items shipped by distributors are as follows (quoted verbatim):

  • SSCC of the inbound pallet and GLN of its supplier
  • SSCC of the outbound pallet, either unmodified or newly created
  • Links between the SSCC of the newly created pallet and the SSCC of the pallets used in its creation and, if applicable, the GTIN and lot number of each carton shipped to the retailer
  • GLN of the retail location to which the pallet is dispatched
Retail stores

Retailers receive wine from the finished goods distributor for retail sale. The wine is usually delivered in cases, cartons, and pallets, and records of their SSCCs and lot numbers must be kept. Individual units sold to the final consumer are identified with a GTIN-13 allocated by the brand owner. UPCs or EANs ensure products are scanned/traced all the way to sale to consumers. If a retailer returns goods to a supplier, it must ensure it doesn’t break the wine industry track and trace links that have been established.

Final thoughts

The wine supply chain is complex. Wine industry track and trace will help protect it, make it more efficient, improve communication among stakeholders, and fulfill consumers’ ever-growing expectations for more information about the products they buy.

rfxcel is ready to help. Our rfxcel Traceability System simplifies wine industry track and trace. From raw materials to finished goods, our solutions ensure you build a data-rich provenance for your products, communicate clearly with all your trading partners, comply with industry and government requirements, and give consumers the information they demand. Contact us today to schedule a demo and see what we can do.

Why We Need Wine Industry Track and Trace, Part 1

It was tempting to write about wine industry track and trace as a film noir (or a film pinot noir, as it were). There would be clandestine grape-stomping, midnight rendezvous in terraced vineyards, rogue chemists, cases stuffed with euros and dollars, sting operations and FBI raids, people taken away in handcuffs. In the closing scene, the one-time victim would celebrate triumph over those who did them wrong.

This much drama for wine industry track and trace? Yes, though it’s about much more than the serious work of fighting counterfeits and illicit trade. It’s about using technology to build provenance, streamline operations, and satisfy customers.

Part 1 of our two-part story covers the basics of wine industry track and trace. Part 2 will get into specifics. Let’s start our investigation.

Seriously, why do we need wine industry track and trace?

Not all supply chains are created equal. For example, if you read our Seafood Transparency Trilogy, you know a large, geographically diverse, and fragmented supply chain poses many challenges.

Plus, some products are more complex than others, which means they have more complex supply chains. From raw materials/ingredients to what consumers expect (or demand), supply chains vary wildly depending on what’s being made, where it’s being delivered, and even “the culture” of the product.

As you might have guessed, wine has a complicated supply chain. GS1, in its 2009 Wine Supply Chain Traceability Guideline, said, “The wine supply chain has always been complex and fragmented and with more distant suppliers and ever-more demanding customers, the unique characteristics of this supply chain bring challenges to implementing an effective traceability system.”

If you wanted to get technical, you could argue that there are actually two wine supply chains.

First, there’s a supply chain for “table wine” or “mass market wine.” Depending on where you live, you’ll find these in your local grocery store, in a wine/spirits shop, or in a state-owned store (an “ABC Store,” “package store,” or “state store”). This supply chain has many actors and the product changes hands many times. The product itself changes dramatically as it moves from raw materials to a finished good. Stakeholders typically have access to technology, including track and trace technology.

The second supply chain is for “fine wines,” which are produced in much smaller quantities than table wines. Though these vintages are sold in “regular” wine shops, they’re often reserved for boutique settings frequented by aficionados with deep pockets (or at least bigger budgets they’ve set aside for their passion). The steps of production and distribution may be very localized, resulting in a supply chain with far fewer actors than for mass-produced wine. For example, a winery in Burgundy, France, might do everything from growing the grapes and bottling to distributing pallets, cartons, or cases to local retailers. Because of their size, they may not have access to the latest track and trace technology.

So, why do we need wine industry track and trace? Here are the key reasons:

  • It’s a complex, fragmented supply chain.
  • There are diverse ingredients and raw materials, ranging from fertilizers and water to bottles, corks, and caps — and, of course, grapes.
  • Wine is heavily regulated.
  • Consumers of all stripes want the full provenance for what they’re drinking.

Wine industry track and trace will improve operations for all, ensure compliance with regulations, and satisfy consumer demand for detailed information and transparency.

Two other reasons for wine industry track and trace

Like other industries, wine has business and professional organizations for its supply chain stakeholders. There are trade publications and trade shows. It does big promotions. It has all the trappings of a large, important industry.

Unlike other industries, however, wine has a following. It is more than a product. Wine is a global culture unto itself. And this means there are aspects to its history and very existence that have ramifications for the supply chain.

For starters, there’s a thriving counterfeit market and illicit trade. Granted, this isn’t unique to wine, but the intricacies of the production process and the many facets of supply and demand make it an especially daunting problem. These stories from 2020 give an idea of its scope:

Furthermore, there’s a thriving, passionate collectors’ scene around the world. There’s a huge private trade, in-person and online clubs, mega-exclusive events and dinners, and auctions with nosebleed prices. And there’s lots of money changing hands. A desirable bottle of wine can cost as much as a car. Or a house. The 2019 auction market alone was valued at more than $520 million.

As a cautionary tale that combines the scourge of counterfeiting with the rarefied air of the highest echelons of the wine elite, there’s the fascinating case of Rudy Kurniawan. If you don’t know the story, start here. You might want to grab a glass of wine — just make sure you know where it really came from.

So, counterfeiting and illicit trade are major problems, including in collectors’ circles, where today’s wines are tomorrow’s pricey classics. Provenance, therefore, is vitally important across the supply chain, which is another compelling reason for wine industry track and trace.

Final thoughts

In our faux noir introduction, we said the victim triumphed in the end. What we meant was that wine industry track and trace protects everyone in the supply chain, from winemakers and their trading partners to everyday consumers and auction houses.

Producers can prove the provenance of their ingredients and final products. They can create a story about their wines, connect with consumers, and build and safeguard their brand reputation. Distributors and retailers can maintain the chain of ownership and help ensure only genuine products make it to market, all while streamlining and automating logistics. Consumers can know more about the wines they buy, such as where the grapes were grown, when they were harvested, and if they were treated with pesticides. For fine wines that may become collectors’ items, provenance can be “passed down” as a bottle or case or entire cellar ages, providing much-needed proof that a wine is what it’s label says it is.

As the leader in track and trace technology, rfxcel can help. Our award-winning rfxcel Traceability System is perfectly suited for wine industry track and trace. For example, our Raw Materials Traceability and Finished Goods Traceability solutions create the entire product provenance with detailed data about every aspect of production. Our Integrated Monitoring solution rides along with products as they move through the supply chain, protecting them from environmental excursions, diversion, and theft. With our MobileTraceability app, you can see and control your supply chain from virtually anywhere in the world.

Talk with one of our supply chain experts today to learn more about what we can do. And check back soon for Part 2 of our wine industry track and trace series.

READ PART 2 OF OUR WINE TRACK AND TRACE SERIES.