By Barbara Barrielle
Prosurix, a 2018 WINnovation Award Winner
The idea of Prosurix, a counterfeit detection software, came to long-time wine and spirits retailer Steve Glamuzina about four years ago when he heard about the counterfeiting of the famed Italian wine, Sassicaia, and rampant counterfeiting of other collectible and expensive wines.
As the owner of Georgetown Wine and Spirits in Williamsville, New York, Glamuzina has sold a lot of wine, both pricey and decidedly inexpensive. With a 10,000 square foot retail space and significant volume, the Buffalo-area retailer sees swings in consumer buying patterns given the long-challenged local economy. “There are a lot of reasons to be drinking nowadays,” he says, “when things are down, people buy less expensive brands but there is an increase in volume.”
These days, with the Buffalo economy rebounding slightly, Glamuzina is seeing both an appreciation of brands and a steady increase in volume, so thing are good for his business. But, as he explains, the traditional three-tier system of the producer selling to the wholesaler who then ultimately sells product to the retailer, has been challenged by internet sales where authenticity cannot be guaranteed.
It was two years ago when a regular customer brought in what he thought was a bottle of Chateau Margaux and said he had “gotten a super buy on the internet.” Upon inspection, Glamuzina easily discovered that the label had been scanned and printed then stained with coffee for age. It was applied on a simple Robert Mondavi bottle and sold to this hapless wine lover. Glamuzina assumes that, once informed of his foolish mistake, the customer probably offloaded the fake Margaux on the internet thus perpetuating the fraud.
Concerned by this counterfeiting, Glamuzina consulted with his Chief Technical Officer, Jeff Murphy, and asked how they could develop something that could guarantee a true bottle of the branded wine and deter counterfeiting. About two weeks later, Murphy, came back with a chip employing near field technology (NFT) that could easily be placed in a tag on a wine bottle and read by a simple smartphone.
In fact, just scanning the chip allows an iPhone or Android phone to easily download the app software and immediately be appraised of the authenticity of the wine they are planning to purchase, or have already purchased in the case of an internet purchase. If all goes as planned, a Prosurix chip on a bottle of wine will be the indicator of whether this wine is worth what the buyer is spending, however they may be buying. And, ultimately, this will determine if the consumer will have the wine experience promised by the brand on the label.
But Prosurix goes even farther by providing a vehicle for the producer to embed an array of marketing and technical information in the authentication chip. “At this point, with several U.S. patents, we are ready to go to market,” said Glamuzina. “Although now in sticker form, we are changing the labeling of the chip and with several ways to use the application, there are countless ways to message marketing and promotional information to the consumer. Discounts, coupons, rebates, redemptions, videos, tasting notes…the information goes on and on.
“We have done a pile of testing in the store and, when we had a test batch of $20 bottles of wine with half tagged and the other half without a chip, the customer almost always chose the bottle that is tagged with a Prosurix chip.”
The cost to add the chip is relatively cheap and provides so much more than just counterfeit prevention by allowing the producer to communicate directly with the consumer in any form they choose. When asked about what may cause hesitation among producers to adopt the Prosurix technology, Glamuzina points out that there was hesitation among some producers in using a UPC code when this inventory control system was introduced, but it became clear quickly that these codes were ultimately effective for producers, distributors, and retailers in managing inventory from the winery through to the consumer.
In restaurants, Glamuzina says that the chip will allow a consumer to guarantee the trueness of the their bottle purchase and receive information on the wine they are drinking even with the low and mood lighting that makes reading labels (and menus) so difficult in many restaurants.
In speaking with many large and medium producers, Glamuzina says there is excitement over the Prosurix product for all of its multi-faceted applications for both the wine and spirits producers and those that are the ultimate consumers of what they are guaranteed is quality in the bottle.
Note: the writer went to an Italian wine tasting shortly after learning about Prosurix and it is clear that the producers of Sassicaia have already “chipped” their bottles to guarantee the wine inside is what the customer is expecting….and paying for. I have to say I felt a sense of security in knowing that this Sassiacia was the real thing.