Reid Fruits deploys Laava’s Digital Fingerprints to outsmart counterfeiters
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Tasmanian cherry grower Reid Fruits has teamed up with brand and product
integrity startup Laava to prevent counterfeiters from copying Reid’s
Reid Fruits is applying Laava’s patented Smart Fingerprint technology on
its cherry boxes for 20 export markets during the 2019–20 season. The
technology uses advanced computer vision technology developed in
collaboration with CSIRO to produce a unique ‘fingerprint’ that can be
scanned by any smartphone.
Unlike barcodes or QR codes used in the past, Laava’s Smart Fingerprint
technology is much harder to impersonate or replicate and much more secure,
making it more resistant to counterfeiting. It also delivers detailed brand
and product information and interactive experiences to consumers. In
addition, the technology can be easily modified to include new features.
‘Our Laava Fingerprints are designed with two things in mind: to enable
better experiences, trust and transparency for consumers, and to ensure
safety and security for brands,’ says Gavin Ger, Commercial Director,
‘Counterfeiting is a massive issue for us and other Australian producers,’
says Tim Reid, Managing Director, Reid Fruits. ‘Laava’s Smart Fingerprint
technology offers a level of secure authentication that we believe will
make it extremely difficult for counterfeiters to replicate.’
Fighting the fakes
Based in southern Tasmania, Reid Fruits is a family-owned business that has
been operating since 1856. After growing apples for over 140 years, in 2000
the company turned its attention to cherries, securing a 500-acre property
in the Derwent Valley where it has planted more than 100,000 cherry trees.
Reid Fruits started exporting cherries in 2005. Almost from day one, the
company’s premium products have been targeted by counterfeiters, including
in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. In 2018, Reid Fruits received a
photo from an Indian distributor of one of its cherry boxes – two weeks
before the export season started.
Counterfeiting is particularly problematic in China, Reid Fruits’ largest
export market. Following a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014,
demand for Tasmanian products and Tasmanian cherries in particular
skyrocketed – as did the counterfeiting of Reid Fruits’ cherries.
Reid Fruits has spent tens of thousands of dollars to prevent
counterfeiting, switching to higher-quality packaging, using special
processes such as embossing and foil on its cartons, introducing a
watermark on its box bases and printing its logo on the long-life plastic
liners that keep cherries fresh in the box. The company has also included a
seasonal, laser-cut, embossed foil sticker on the outside of its boxes and
a card inside with a unique QR code which when scanned, links to a website
that authenticates the product.
‘In the 2018 season, all these elements were copied within the first two
weeks of the boxes appearing in the Chinese market,’ says Tony Coad,
Manager, Marketing and Sales, Reid Fruits.
The QR-based technology was especially troubling for Reid Fruits, as
counterfeiters simply created their own QR codes that linked to a fake
authentication website (a technique known as ‘spoofing’).
‘It’s hard to quantify the impact on our sales simply because we really
don’t know how much counterfeiting is going on,’ says Coad. ‘For example,
counterfeit products are being sold online at a reduced price, so that puts
pressure on us to lower our price to be competitive.
‘Counterfeiting not only leads to a direct loss of sales for us, it also
affects our importers and distributors. In 2018, one of our Chinese
importers had his sales basically halved from the year before, he estimates
he lost around A$400,000.’
In addition to loss of revenue, counterfeiting puts Reid Fruits’ reputation
at risk. ‘If the counterfeit product is of an inferior quality – and they
usually are – that can have a damaging long-term impact on our brand,’ says
He adds that counterfeiting has industry-wide ramifications. ‘A significant
amount of work has gone into negotiating protocols for Australia to gain
access to the markets with which we trade. If the counterfeit products are
contaminated, this could severely jeopardise our market access.’
Advanced optical technology delivers trustworthy authentication
Reid Fruits’ search for new anti-counterfeiting technology led the company
to ask Austrade for assistance. Austrade’s industry experts introduced Reid
Fruits to a number of companies offering innovative authentication
After an extensive assessment, Reid Fruits elected to work with Laava.
‘Laava is using a newer, higher standard of optical recognition which is
not so easy to impersonate or replicate,’ says Coad. ‘We also wanted
something that would be ready to roll out for the 2019–20 season and
Laava’s technology was ready to go: they sent us an email with a product
proposal and we could use our smartphones to test it.’
Developed and refined in collaboration with CSIRO over two years, Laava’s
Fingerprint technology is unique in that it uses an optically based process
to validate products. The technology also uses multi-factor authentication,
is blockchain-ready and integrates directly with industry-standard
packhouse management and traceability solutions.
Consumers use the Laava mobile website to scan the Fingerprint from any
smartphone (there’s no need to download an app). Chinese consumers can also
access a version of Laava’s scanner in WeChat. From early 2020, brands will
be able to integrate the scanner within their own app, website or WeChat
‘Most of the codes used to identify products at the moment like QR are
‘read’ by a camera or a phone looking at the code and decoding it,’
explains Ger. ‘There’s no actual authentication going on – the scanner just
reads the code and actions whatever the code tells it do. Most also use
open standards that allow anyone to generate a code. These types of codes
are a counterfeiter’s dream and a serious risk for brands – they were never
designed for authentication.
‘What makes Laava different is that each Laava code is unique and can only
be generated by Laava – every box of cherries will carry a one-off,
serialised identifier,’ says Ger. ‘When the code is scanned, our technology
optically compares the image of that code against our database. Only when
it finds a match will it authenticate the product.
‘That allows us to immediately identify cases where someone has tried to
copy or simply pass off a code that looks like one of ours as a
legitimate Laava Fingerprint. This same secure process allows brands to
enforce business rules, such as checking the number of scans, and where
those scans are taking place.’
Engaging consumer experiences
Coad says another appealing feature of Laava’s technology was its
simplicity and ease of use for the consumer.
‘There are technologies that involve peel-off labels or layers of foil, or
which require special readers. We want to make it easy for our customers to
authenticate the product, that’s why we chose a solution that could be
scanned by a smartphone,’ he says.
‘There’s a lot of focus on traceability and what we call “forensic”
authentication of products but there really hasn’t been anything consumers
can engage with easily, using a smartphone,’ adds Ger. ‘And that is what
Laava delivers – something that any consumer with a smartphone can scan and
trust. It looks friendly and engaging, and has all the elements that
authenticate a product as the ‘real’ thing.’
The organic shape of the Laava Fingerprints – which resemble the organic
flows of lava – also allows Laava to embed further security and other
features over time, while the extensive focus on creating rich consumer
experiences is designed to build brand equity and customer engagement.
‘Reid Fruits has a significant heritage that goes back five generations so
they are interested in promoting their story, particularly in China, where
consumers are interested in learning about the provenance of a product and
the rich stories behind it,’ says Ger.
Another Laava client, Tamburlaine Wines, includes static content about its
organic winemaking process in the fingerprint, as well as interactive
content designed to build engagement.
‘When you scan Tamburlaine’s fingerprint, you can shop online, join the
winery’s cellar door program, and follow them on WeChat,’ says Ger. ‘It
creates deeper engagement with consumers. Tamburlaine is interested in
promoting tourism to the Hunter Valley, and we are working with them to
offer packaged tours to their winery and the Hunter Valley area as part of
the Laava-enabled experience.’
An evolving technology
Laava has dedicated R&D, product, customer experience and engineering
teams that are continually developing the Smart Fingerprint technology.
‘We are working on a raft of advanced capabilities that will go live over
the next 12 to 24 months,’ says Ger. ‘This is another differentiator from
QR codes; QR codes have reached the end of their development potential
whereas Laava’s product development roadmap is packed with exciting new
‘Our long-term goal is for the Laava Fingerprint to be the global mark of
trust, connecting brands and their consumers,’ says Ger. ‘We want to make
the Laava Fingerprint extremely cost-effective and easy to deploy, so that
it becomes ubiquitous – literally as simple and low-cost as a printed
Laava is now turning its attention to building a network of industry
software and blockchain integrations, as well as labelling, printing and
packaging distribution partnerships to make it even easier for brands to
‘We’d love every Australian exporter to use the Laava Smart Fingerprint on
their products to help them grow and protect their businesses,’ says Ger.
The Australian Trade and Investment Commission – Austrade – contributes to
Australia's economic prosperity by helping Australian businesses, education
institutions, tourism operators, governments and citizens as they:
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Whereas every effort has been made to ensure the information given in this document is accurate, the Australian Trade and Investment Commission does not provide warranty or accept liability for any loss arising from reliance on such information.
©Commonwealth of Australia 2020