Accurate brand colours stem counterfeiting

PantoneEvery year, the risk to the global pharmaceutical supply chain from counterfeit drugs grows; costing companies billions of dollars and putting the health of consumers at risk. While there are no reliable statistics for the volume of counterfeit drugs being marketed annually, the World Health Organization estimates ten per cent of all pharmaceuticals in the global supply chain are counterfeit. The only constant to the varied estimates is that the percentage is on the rise.

To combat the spread of counterfeit drugs, pharmaceutical makers are putting technologies and practices in place that will help assure consumers are getting the genuine article. These new security techniques enable strong and reliable protection from tampering, copying and brand infringement – making counterfeiting a more difficult and costly process.

Given the health and financial impact of counterfeit drugs, protecting brand identity for pharmaceuticals is critical and brand colour is integral to that objective. In fact, studies show that colour tops the list when it comes to how consumers identify and select a given brand. So getting the brand colour consistent on every packaging type not only drives sales, but also protects consumers from being duped into buying a bogus product.

The value of improved colour consistency to a packaging printer is clear. Chesapeake, a global producer of consumer packaging, was keen to help pioneer any new developments in this area. With 42 facilities worldwide, including the US, UK and China, Chesapeake employs about 5 000 people and has annual revenue of $870 million. Chesapeake’s Pharmaceutical and Healthcare division supplies some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies with innovative packaging and print services using the latest digital and web-flexo systems. The company produces a broad range of packaging components for this market sector including folding cartons, leaflets, labels and booklets. Additionally, Chesapeake offers its customers an independent design resource covering all aspects of artwork management, repro and print.

With many of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies as customers, Chesapeake is on the leading edge of packaging design and print production and understands the importance of brand integrity. Its customers have billions of dollars invested in their brands and are keen on doing whatever they can to protect those investments. And with the threat of package counterfeiting always looming, expectations and the pressure to deliver a quality result, within budget, is extremely high.

‘With counterfeiting on the rise, it’s more important for brands to safeguard product integrity and assure consumer confidence,’ said Mike Cheetham, chief executive officer at Chesapeake. ‘It is essential that a pack’s color is both accurate and consistent. Together with other anti-counterfeiting techniques, it will help to combat an increasingly sophisticated global threat.’

In 2010, Chesapeake recognised that any improvement to produce color using its current sheet fed lithography processes would be highly beneficial. As colours reproduce differently on different substrates – flexo, litho or gravure – the company realised that any inconsistency could present an opportunity for counterfeiters. 

‘For pharmaceuticals, even the slightest variation in package colour could make the product suspect,’ says Jon Drennan, operations director at Chesapeake’s Leicester facility. ‘It is important to recognise the limitations of existing processes and the impact that it could have on consumer brands.’

That was the motivator Chesapeake used to look for a solution that would deliver colours that could accurately be reproduced against brand owners’ expectations. Drennan and his team at Chesapeake turned to Pantone and the Sun Chemical SmartColour team to help them bring consistency and control across all the materials in the production process and make certain that brand colours were right every time, on every possible packaging material. ‘Our goal was to create a digital palette of all the ink colours we use in our printing,’ says Drennan. ‘We wanted to build a set of data that would represent a given color and use that data to recreate the colour exactly the same every time, regardless of substrate.’

Chesapeake selected PantoneLIVE to help provide the consistency and control they needed. PantoneLIVE is a dynamic ecosystem that allows brand owners and print services suppliers to manage and maintain color assets through a cloud-based repository. Using PantoneLIVE, brand owners and print providers can store and share key color assets to manage and communicate colours accurately – anywhere in the world. PantoneLIVE leverages Sun Chemical SmartColour technology and colour data foundation. Colour accuracy on proof was delivered by the Esko Color Engine and FlexProof software. Spot colour inks are integral to this packaging market, and the unparalleled spot ink profiling of Color Engine made the required accuracy straightforward to achieve. Support for PantoneLIVE throughout the Esko software enabled a smooth implementation of the digital colour managed workflow: easy to use, easy to learn and easy to sustain. Over the past 18 months, Chesapeake worked with the PantoneLIVE team to digitise every colour Chesapeake uses.

By digitising its palette, Chesapeake was able to produce a digital proof that represented exactly what would be done on press. Digital proofing let Chesapeake test a design with its customers and speed up the overall approval process, resulting in a faster time to market and the lower costs associated with greater efficiencies. ‘The job of a printer is to deliver a print product that represents what the designer created and what the brand owner expects across different print mediums,’ says Drennan. ‘Digitising the palette took the subjectivity out of the process. And the resulting colour consistency exceeds the brand owners’ expectations.’

Improvement in colour consistency has been dramatic. While the accepted industry standard for colour deviation, or ?E, averages around four, Chesapeake’s target is an entire palette produced at no more than 2?E. Chesapeake is achieving output that beats the industry colour deviation with a 1.5?E and in some cases less than 1?E. ‘PantoneLIVE lets us accurately measure the results against the digital target,’ says Drennan, ‘and that has offered us and our customers substantial cost savings.’

Digitising its palette is having another positive impact on Chesapeake’s business – the company now plans to keep fewer inks in its inventory. Chesapeake’s Leicester, UK, plant, for example, stocked as many as 3 000 different inks. Now, the plant stores only 537 without reducing colour choices. ‘The digital colour target means that only one ink is needed for a given colour reference,’ says Drennan.

The company also recently conducted a study of its UK and Irish plants and discovered nearly 20 000 different ink references to colour targets in the analogue format. Once digital targets are created with PantoneLIVE, the company expects the ink inventory at these plants will be reduced by more than 60 per cent. The reduced ink inventory also helps them negotiate better prices with their ink suppliers.

Customer satisfaction is on the upswing as well. Batch rejection rate is one measure of a happy customer. In 2010, one Chesapeake customer, a maker of an over-the-counter drug, was experiencing a complaint rate of ten per cent, far above the industry standard of .5 percent. Out of a batch of 600 products, more than 60 were being sent back. Within a year of implementing PantoneLIVE, the customer’s rejection rate dropped to zero. ‘We reduced the colour variation by 84 per cent,’ says Drennan.  

Greater customer satisfaction is only one of the benefits. Overall ROI is already attractive, Drennan points out. Chesapeake uses fewer raw materials because they can align customer expectations with designs which can be approved before production, which gets the packaging to market sooner. The improved processes helped Chesapeake increase yield by five per cent and reduce print production waste by 18 per cent. 

PantoneLIVE provided Chesapeake the colour control and consistency they were seeking. Digitising its colour palettes established true brand colors for its customers, resulting in print accuracy across a variety of substrates, and leading to consistency from design to pre-press to print. With that colours are true to the brand, tougher to copy and a solid assurance for consumers.

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