Holographic packaging for eye-catching appeal and security


Holograms not only protect products against the threat of counterfeiters but also ensure they catch the eye of consumers. Glenn Wood of the International Hologram Manufacturers Association explains more about the value of holograms and their uses.

Product counterfeiting is big business, costing companies billions of dollars a year in lost revenue and causing untold damage to reputation. Increased industrial globalisation, extended supply chains, the growth of brands, weak regional law enforcement and lenient criminal penalties are all factors driving the ‘counterfeiting explosion’ while the impact of the Internet as a conduit for counterfeit goods and high quality reprographic technology have also made it easy and affordable to copy brand packaging.

So, it’s little wonder that the hologram has emerged to become the primary choice for an expanding range of anti-counterfeiting and brand protection applications. The technology’s ability to incorporate other data forms and product tracking information is becoming increasingly important, and commercially acceptable, with the added bonus of being able to link on-pack product identification with supply chain management, market enforcement and forensic support services.

New imaging techniques and combinations of other overt authentication technologies with holograms are producing novel optical security devices which combine ease of recognition benefits with significantly enhanced resistance to counterfeits. This enables the identity and distribution of goods to be controlled using security authentication features, tracking mechanisms and investigative services.

Grey market

The rise of the Internet and globalisation is blurring the edges of once geographically-based markets, often impinging upon an organisation’s ability to maintain brand image by selling only in premium channels.

The result is a burgeoning grey market economy (where legitimate goods are produced in unauthorised quantities or diverted to a market in which a retailer has no right to sell them) with exclusive, aspirational, often counterfeit products turning up for sale almost anywhere from street corner traders in big cities to small villages in remote provinces. Tackling the issue typically requires the marking of individual items with a unique serial number or ‘license plate’. These can then be tracked through the whole supply chain from the production line to final point-of-sale.

Armed with the information this facility provides, companies and the anti-counterfeiting agencies that work on their behalf can examine products found in cheap flea markets, on the premises of an unauthorised retailer or dealer or on a website and pose the question – ‘How did it get here?’ – important first steps in beginning to find out what happened and where the problem lies. Today’s advanced holograms offer track and trace features which can help users generate unique sequential, encrypted or random serial numbers or identify and mark products overtly or covertly either via special self adhesive labels or directly onto product using a variety of print technologies.

The identity of individual items can be linked to packaging through a unique code, which in turn can be linked to case ID, pallet ID or container ID. The recording of this parent child relationship between unit pack, carton and pallet is the beginning of an electronic pedigree, which allows the item to be tracked throughout the many layers of the distribution chain   from the factory and packaging through distribution to the final user. This type of use can also be used to capture important events in a product’s life cycle - QA rejects and product returns, for instance – creating a flexible database that offers product history and other business reporting benefits.

Eye-catching packaging

The second major benefit of holograms is the role they play in enhancing packaging. Manufacturers have seconds in which to capture consumer attention in the retail environment - the eye-catching and creative appeal of holograms helps to meet these challenges by giving products a highly distinctive decorative edge over competitors.

Holography is limited only by the constraints of the imagination. Continuing advances in film coating and manufacturing technology have opened the door for ever more innovative new opportunities for embossed holographic materials used in packaging, while a wide variety of specialist origination techniques offer an infinite variety of colourful 3D visual effects, ranging from the bright and stunning to more subtle graphic features. 

Holographic films are ideal in the packaging industry for a wide variety of flexible applications. Wide web holographic films are commonly used for printing, gift wraps, packaging, lamination and eye-catching marketing stickers. While the richness of the film adds to the overall quality and feel of the product packaging, the combination of opaque and translucent inks with optical technology further increases the graphic opportunities available, reinforcing brand identities, capturing customer attention and bringing new life to mature or aging pack design.

API Holographic Ltd’s HoloFOIL, for instance, is one of the latest generation of decorative holographic foils used for packaging where maximum shelf appeal is an important element of the marketing mix, particularly among premium products but increasingly with commodity consumer items. Featuring more than 20 standard patterns with differing visual effects and colour variants, API own the copyright on several hundred holographic designs which offer retail packaging designers and manufacturers an almost limitless range of options from which to develop a vast array of eye-catching and unique designs.

Holographic foils can be used to great effect to differentiate product at the point-of-sale – something Colgate Palmolive recognised when they launched its new Total and Whitening range of branded toothpaste into an already crowded market place. Aimed at the premium end of the market, Colgate Palmolive needed its high-quality brand to stand out from the volume market.

The consumer goods’ giant  decided to use  holographic foil to reinforce the high quality values of the Total and Whitening brand while simultaneously ensuring the packaging was visually attractive enough to catch the eye of consumers rapidly scanning supermarket shelves. The distinguishing visual effects holography brings were identified as a powerful tool in building a strong and powerful message and instant recognition of premium value.

API’s foil was specified to offer a bespoke, reliable and flexible design solution which could also withstand fast production speeds. The value the foil added to the overall brand packaging is difficult to pin down precisely but has certainly help contribute to the Total and Whitening brand becoming a market leader and instantly recognisable on the shelf.

Elsewhere, Hasbro Games has used US-based Vacumet Corporation’s HoloPRISM holographic foil technology to ensure boxes of its MONOPOLY: The Disney Edition and other packaged games catch the eye of shoppers of all ages in the busy retail environment, while Vacumet’s holographic packaging concept for Trivial Pursuit 25th Anniversary Edition has previously been commended by the International Hologram Manufacturers Association for its added value appeal for brand design and packaging.

Holography adds real value and one of the keys to the success of holograms has been the ability to adapt and constantly find new roles. We will undoubtedly see more and more interesting developments for the technology in the packaging sector, like the ability to personalise holograms, as new techniques and materials come to the fore and packaging suppliers, designers and producers realise the opportunities.

Further information

The International Hologram Manufacturers Association