A sweeter solution to brand protection in the confectionery industry

Posted on 7 Aug 2023 by The Manufacturer

In the confectionery industry, brand quality equals trust. The success of confectionery brands is defined by the strong emotional connections that consumers have with products such as a favourite chocolate bar or familiar sweet treat.

This level of loyalty demands assured product consistency and quality, yet there are several challenges to ensuring brand protection in this industry.

Manufacturers are under pressure from all sides. Not only do they have to manage packaging lines, improve processes, increase output and reduce TCO, but they must also follow the latest regulations and consumer trends.

In a competitive market, safeguarding the public perception of even the best loved brand can be challenging. Markem-Imaje’s permanent laser coding solutions are providing confectionery brands with a comprehensive answer to these pitfalls.

Assuring food safety

In confectionery, as in so many industries, effective brand quality and protection begins and ends with assuring high standards of food safety. The packaging and coding stage presents significant potential risks to product quality.

Manufacturers are also having to respond to growing restrictions on the use of chemicals in food packaging lines. Markem-Imaje’s SmartLase family of laser printers is helping confectionery brands to address these issues.

Because they apply 100% food safety regulation compliant, high-quality, permanent codes without the use of chemicals or consumables, the potential risk of the contamination of edible products is completely removed, as are odours. Even at high duty cycles in very hot and humid conditions, the SmartLase’s Intelli’Cool technology means that there is no intrusion of plant air, removing yet another potential contamination risk.

Solving the traceability challenge

However trusted a confectionery product is, it can still be impacted by a lack of visibility into its journey from facility to consumer. Without the ability to trace products from end to end, all along the chain, brands are at risk on several fronts.

In an industry which is all about positive perception, a product recall has the potential to inflict significant damage. Insufficient coding at any stage can break the critical chain of data with serious financial and reputational implications.

In response, companies increasingly recognise the importance of ensuring that products are coded and labelled correctly at the time of production and that they can be identified quickly and precisely at every stage – from primary package to carton to case and pallet.

Markem-Imaje’s SmartLase laser coding solutions allow them to achieve this. Printers such as the SmartLase F250 offer high-quality, permanent coding in high-speed applications on a huge variety of packaging materials, including metallic packaging, even with an increasing code complexity of 1D and 2D codes.

More precise coding means more detailed product information. By enabling more advanced traceability and batch specificity, manufacturers can exactly pinpoint the affected products in the event of a recall. Not only is this valuable in minimising the potential damage of a product recall, it’s also better for the environment as the company can recall a smaller volume of products.

Smart software solutions, such as Markem-Imaje’s CoLOS integrate seamlessly with printing hardware and major MES and ERP systems like Oracle and SAP, playing a decisive role in guaranteeing both authentication and traceability, for example, of sustainably / ethically sourced cocoa. This ability to trace and guarantee origin are critical in combatting major causes of global deforestation such as unsustainable palm oil cultivation.

Addressing environmental responsibilities

There are further connections between answering environmental concerns and assuring traceability. The growing appetite for more ecologically conscious products means that more responsible packaging choices is key for positive brand perception. This trend is reflected in the huge leaps forward in food packaging, with a progression from multilayer composite materials towards more recyclable mono-material films.

These types of flexible films are the fastest growing category of all confectionery packaging. While this is great news for the environment, it presents yet more challenges for brands due to its impact on printability and the potential for issues that could again impact on product safety.

With growing consumer awareness and evolving regulatory requirements driving the need for greater traceability and transparency, there is a shift towards additional data embedded within product coding. Coders must keep pace by maintaining print quality on the newer, more sustainable materials while enabling manufacturers to print increasing amounts of variable information on products.

Package coding is advancing far beyond lot and expiry codes to include additional “smart” data embedded in serialized 2D DataMatrix and QR codes including the new GS1 Digital Link standard, the EU’s Digital Product Passport and the US FDA’s FSMA Rule, to name a few. This provides greater product information, traceability and even promotional codes and late-stage customisation – all without slowing down production.

Markem-Imaje’s SmartLase laser printer solutions, such as the SmartLase C350, solve both challenges in one go because they offer superb code quality and compliance with the aforementioned incoming local and international regulations and standards plus efficiency on all substrates, including mono-materials and foils with high recycled content.

Ensuring product consistency

A significant aspect of consumers’ emotional connection with trusted confectionery brands is enjoying the same experience every time. Consistency of quality, taste and presentation is key to continued loyalty. Public responses to changes in product formula, shape or packaging is proof of that. Manufacturers need to respond to this by assuring reliability at every stage of the production process.

An important aspect of this is packaging every product to the same high standard each time. This requirement for exceptional reliability even at high volumes is being met by Markem-Imaje’s SmartLase laser printers as they provide patented Intelli’Arc scribing and on-board Intelli’Cool for faster coding with greater uptime, reliability and throughput at higher duty cycles.

Counteracting counterfeiting

In 2022, the Food Standards Authority reported a sharp rise in counterfeit chocolate.

This concerning trend has the potential to cause serious harm to customers and to brand perception. Counterfeiting poses significant risks to consumer safety and confectionery brands, not only due to fake products being made in facilities that do not meet rigorous food safety standards, but also because of the potential presence of allergens without the appropriate labelling.

High quality, trackable code has a significant role to play in the fight against counterfeiting. Laser print solutions such as Markem-Imaje’s SmartLase C600 apply durable, high contrast codes that do not rub off or fade over time, ensuring lifetime traceability of products and reducing the impact of counterfeiting.

Safeguarding well-loved brands

Confectionery occupies a special place in the consumer market. From a celebration cake to a favourite chocolate bar, it’s a sector in which trusted products are perceived as an accessible luxury or a treat, even during the current cost of living crisis. This is a space in which trust is essential and where quality and brand protection count for everything.

The stakes are high for confectionery companies – even more so with the rise of counterfeiting and shifting attitudes to healthy eating and environmental issues. A hard won and well-established reputation can be damaged significantly by a single incident, whether that is a poorly managed product recall, a sudden release of fakes, or a change to product taste due to new manufacturing conditions. Because while every great confectionery brand is built on trust, it only takes one highly publicised product recall or food safety failure to undermine it.

By working with an expert partner to adopt coding solutions proven to address brand protection challenges such as product traceability, safety and consistency, confectionery companies can ensure that trusted products remain exactly that.

About the author

Adam Krolak, Product Marketing Manager at Markem-Imaje