Forensic provenance testing: A weapon against counterfeit product
In recent years, cherry exporter Reid Fruits has had to battle against copycats who rip-off its branding and try to sell produce at the premium price that it commands. However, the Tasmanian-based growing operation is fighting back – and it’s using provenance verification technology to do so. Vegetables Australia reports.
During the 2020-2021 season, Reid Fruits partnered with Source Certain to help verify the provenance of its branded cherries in export markets.
Reid Fruits became the first Australian horticultural exporter to combine Source Certain’s provenance verification technology with Laava Smart Fingerprint scannable technology, and e-Commerce and digital marketing company RooLife Group’s consumer engagement and social commerce platform.
Source Certain collected samples of all Reid Fruits cherry varieties from each of the three orchards. The team was able to confidently distinguish between fruit originating from the three different production sites using their scientific provenance verification technology, TSW Trace®.
TSW Trace determines the chemical profile of a produce, which reflects the geographical location of where that product was grown. It analyses chemical, molecular, elemental and isotopic indicators that products naturally absorb from their environment.
Source Certain has also completed analysis of samples collected from a number of different retail locations in the export market to verify that they have come from the three Reid Fruits production sites.
The Reid Fruits brand for Premium Tasmanian cherries is well-known in the export market and for a number of years, the operation has had issues with bad actors trying to capitalise on its brand and the premium prices it attracts in the marketplace.
This counterfeit product in the past has entailed increasingly sophisticated attempts to copy Reid Fruits-branded packaging and substitute product with lower quality cherries from other countries.
Reid Fruits was looking at options to add another layer of protection to its brand and product. Source Certain’s forensic provenance testing offered them the ability to identify cherries grown on their company orchards in Tasmania and if necessary, scientifically prove that cherries in suspected counterfeit product claiming to be Reid Fruits brand are not genuine.
“We are now in the second year of our program with Source Certain and our experience with the Source Certain team and program has been great,” Reid Fruits Manager Marketing and Sales, Tony Coad, said.
“Source Certain has worked closely with us and has been flexible on developing and organising the sampling schedule which has not had any impact on our normal daily operations at all.
“The sampling analysis reports were fascinating for us and easy to follow. We were able to identify and verify the provenance of cherries to the orchard of origin.”
The project has seen engagement from senior management and all the growers.
“They care passionately about their produce and protecting the value of their Tasmanian grown fruit,” Source Certain Head of Sales in Australia, Nathan Dubrich, said.
The implementation of this technology can reduce the likelihood of substitution and increases Reid Fruits’ ability to accurately identify potential substitutions to a scientific standard, as well as offering scientific evidence in counterfeit investigations.
There is also seamless integration with Laava and RooLife technology and services, and the Reid Fruits’ team was pleased with the outcome.
“With cherry samples taken from orchards, Source Certain was able to confidently distinguish between fruit originating from our three different production sites. Then, through analysis of samples from different market locations, were able to verify these had come from our orchards,” Nathan said.
“We have really enjoyed working with the team, and the implementation of this technology gives us the ability to scientifically verify the provenance and authenticity of Reid Fruits branded cherries in our overseas markets.”
Approximately 13 kilograms of cherries have come through the Source Certain laboratory over the past two seasons.
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Cover image: Source Certain Managing Director Cameron Scadding and Chief Operating Officer Rachel Scadding pictured at the Source Certain lab.