Camperdown Dairy International was recently granted a licence to export infant formula to China, an agreement underpinned by a cutting edge track-and-trace solution.
Loosening the one-child policy and the deadly 2008 melamine contamination of local product have driven continuing high demand for infant formula in China, but with production permits renewed for only 61 per cent of local formula manufacturers, opportunities abounded for foreign firms.
But exporting baby formula to China is not open to just any foreign manufacturer. Importing manufacturers must meet strict guidelines.
Last year Camperdown was granted a licence, enabling it to sign deals with distributors with a retail value of around $9 billion. Product traceability was a key part of securing the deal.
Gavin Evans, Camperdown Dairy’s general manager – Powder, says: “We went on the education journey with several suppliers. Some would just provide the hardware and were saying, ‘Good luck finding a solution on the rest…’ That didn’t work for us. Some provided a total service offering, but it was the Matthews’ offering of a total solution, the flexibility in getting it up and running, and their approach that won us over.”
Working in conjunction with Trust Codes’ cloud-based platform, the solution uses a Matthews’ Solaris scribing laser to print each tin with a unique, serialised QR code that also has human-readable information. The entire solution is managed by Matthews’ iDSnet software platform.
“This is a rapidly evolving area in terms of consumer product, and Matthews provided excellent insight into the market trends around this style of coding and the equipment.
"They provided the solution for both the hardware – the laser – and the software and cloud-based traceability system through their relationship with Trust Codes,” Evans adds.
The ability to implement and show the effectiveness of the track-and-trace system is a key part of Camperdown’s licence requirement.
Evans says: “This can be achieved through other forms of less-sophisticated serialisation, but we believe that this type of QR-laser coding is the most secure, and provides the most upside from point-of-sale, brand-protection and development angles.
“Having a unique, scannable code that allows you to see in the cloud where that product is at any time – from the manufacturer through to the ultimate consumer – gives us as a manufacturer a much better handle on being able to recall product, should that need ever arise. Now, compare that to a static batch code that can’t be scanned, where the manufacturer has to effectively use their own shipping logs to track down products. This is obviously far superior.”
Authentication is another vital element of the solution.
“Chinese consumers are very inclined to use the scanning capability on WeChat; they can scan and then get the information to gain a level of confidence around whether it’s a genuine article. The Trust Codes software has an authentication step that says ‘this product is where it should be’ – with all the documentation in the menu so the consumer can see when the product was shipped and so on. That trust, from the consumer perspective, is absolutely critical.”
Evans says Camperdown wanted an app-based code, rather than consumers needing to download a program, where take-up rate is markedly lower due to the extra step.
“If people can scan a QR code using the scanner that’s embedded into WeChat, utilisation increases significantly. So that was a massive factor for us and another of the main decision makers around the service offering that Matthews provided in partnership with Trust Codes.
“This technology has now become a key selling point for our new product range entering the market. As a new manufacturer it is critical that we can quickly build trust in our products and this authentication process is at the centre of building that trust.
"Our distribution partners are also looking at this technology as a point of difference that is still in its infancy across the competitive landscape.”
The fine print
The Solaris Matthews scribing laser marks each formula tin with a unique, serialised Trust Code that is embedded in the printed QR barcode.
The Trust Code provides advanced cryptographic code generation and fraud-tracking algorithms, as well as the consumer interface.
The solution also incorporates in-line validation with a camera-based system to give ‘proof of provenance’, by ensuring each printed code is verified and then uploaded to the secure Trust Codes cloud.
Matthews production-line software iDSnet integrates with Trust Codes and the advanced Solaris laser scribing system on the production line, to provide Camperdown with an end-to-end solution.