GMA Brand Protection and Supply Chain Integrity Report

Written by: John Spink

Primary Source: Food Fraud Initiative

GMA BROn February 20, 2014, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) released their new report on “Brand Protection and Supply Chain Integrity.”  With my MSU colleague Dr. Doug Moyer, we participated in the Brand Protection Working Group that provided guidance for the project.  This report was commissioned by GMA and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) based on a direct request from their 2012 CEO Leadership Forum – addressing counterfeit product was “among the highest priorities of the members.” The research was conducted pro bono – as are most GMA reports – by information technology/ transaction management supplier Inmar and product authentication supplier Authentix.  The report included expert insight by those authors, a best practices survey of GMA/FMI members, and was supplemented by a consumer survey previously conducted by Inmar.

The project was scoped to only include products with a human or animal public health threat (it does not seem to be the intent but these are all FDA products.)

“The scope of products covered in this guide includes CPG [consumer packaged goods] – food, over-the-counter medicines, pet and health and beauty care products. The guide does not cover coupons, apparel, sporting goods, automotive, electronics or other non-food items found in mass merchandisers and specialty retail.”

The report used a broad – or macro – definition of counterfeiting, which expanded the focus beyond trademark, patent or copyright infringement.  It did zoom in on illegally manufactured or adulterated goods – specifically not including stolen goods or actions that do not violate the IP rights.  In the USA, the “counterfeiting” laws focus on the intellectual property rights.

“For the purposes of this guide, counterfeit goods are defined as illegitimately manufactured or adulterated goods. This guide does not address stolen goods, or products such as “replica” or “genuine imitation” items that do not otherwise violate a brand owner’s rights.”

There was a focus – consistent with our previous Food Fraud Initiative publications and research direction — on “detection, prevention, and deterrence.”

There was a broad range of best practices noted but few direct recommendations for countermeasures in the case study section of the report, except for the following regarding packaging:

“The manufacturer enlisted a third-party security company to develop a program that
was compatible with already existing programs. Four important steps were taken to
combat the unauthorized product:
• Late stage customization to add security post production
• Tamper-evident security labels with covert and forensic features
• Labels supplied from a secure, third-party print facility
• Labels printed with region-specific information to meet local regulations”

Also, packaging technology expertise was identified as one of the key expert areas:

“Create a dedicated group that has expertise in 4 key areas: law enforcement, supply chain, packaging technology and legal.”

A best practice directly addressed packaging countermeasures:

“Build anti-counterfeit and brand protection elements into the product design process with the goal to employ in-product and on-package authentication technology.”

In summary, this report provides some interesting best practices and a base from which companies can start building a Brand Protection response.  While our Food Fraud Initiative is focused on food, none of us can ignore that the bad guys focus on all products.  Expanding our perspective to understand the insights in reports like this is important.  There are best practices we can learn from many adjacent industries.  JWS.

GMA Press-Release announcing the report, February 20, 2014:


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John Spink
Dr. Spink has been focused on product fraud since the Michigan State University’s Food Safety Program and the School of Packaging began research on the topic in 2006. This work expanded to the behavioral sciences and criminology and led to the establishment of the Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Initiative in 2008. In 2009 the work shifted to the School of Criminal Justice where the Initiative evolved into a Program.