For more than a decade, Sproxil’s mobile authentication technology, called “Defender,” has helped consumers detect counterfeit medicines. Now the US startup is using its technology to spot fakes in all kinds of industries — from agriculture to beverages.
Sproxil’s approach is simple. Manufacturers package goods with a scratch-off label that conceals a unique code. Consumers can scan that code, free of charge, on Sproxil’s app, which tells them immediately whether the product is authentic or not.
The service is paid for by manufacturers. In return, they’re able to protect their customers and brand reputation, and receive information about the location of counterfeit products.
Gogo soon realized that Sproxil’s technology offered a solution for products beyond the pharmaceutical industry.
As the middle class has grown across Africa and Asia, consumers have developed a taste for Western beverage brands, leading to a surge in counterfeit products, he said.
Sproxil has partnered with the Pure Heaven brand, which sells non-alcoholic wine and other sparkling drinks in over 80 countries. “In Nigeria it is a household name and counterfeiters go after successful brands,” Gogo said.
Obianika Okafor is general manager of J.I. Ejison International, which sells Pure Heaven products in six west African countries. “Counterfeiting was a massive problem for us because sales were slowing down and we were losing the goodwill of our customers,” he told CNN Business.
Around 10 million Pure Heaven beverages now bear the Sproxil scratch codes. “The sales volumes are up again and people are generally happy with the products,” Okafor said.
The company, which operates in five African countries as well as India and Pakistan, has raised $4 million in investment.
Sproxil plans to focus on Africa’s counterfeit liquor market next.
“Similar to the pharmaceutical sector, counterfeit beverages have resulted in the loss of human lives,” said Gogo.
“[Counterfeiting] causes genuine economic losses which hurts foreign direct investments and stifles innovation,” Gogo said. “[We] will start by working closely with regulators in creating awareness to the general public on the risks associated with consuming suspicious beverage products.”
Sproxil is also planning to launch incentive schemes that reward consumers for buying authentic products instead of fake ones, said Gogo. His aim is to reinforce the idea that shoppers, as well as manufacturers, benefit from choosing the genuine article.