Smartphone technology to tackle the diffusion of fake Italian products
Food and wine are among Italy's most relevant sources of income. Internationally renowned, the excellence attached to the "made in Italy" tag is immense; just as big, it goes without saying, is the quality of true "made in Italy" products. We've learnt how to decipher Italian wine labels and recognise Italian food quality denominations: Italy has more protected food products than any other countries in the world, with 221 EU DOP denominations, meaning they have to be produced following specific regulations and using specific ingredients.
These products - think of cold cuts, cured meats, wines, cheeses - give work to 300.000 businesses and their commercialization is worth a hefty 13.5 billion euro a year (around 15 billion USD). Equally high, though, are the numbers of conterfeit products sales: fake parmigiano alone causes losses of around 60 million euro (63 million USD) to Italy, as reported by the national Ministry of Agriculture.
Things can really get tricky for consumers, especially while at the supermarket, without the time to make proper research about a specific product. Smart technology has come to the aid of millions of Italian food lovers all over the world, who have now the possibility to download a free app able to tell in real time whether they' re buying an authentic product or not: Reliabitaly.
What is Reliabitaly
Reliabitaly is an interactive marking created to allow consumers to check easily whether a product has been verified and is a genuine "Made in Italy". The association has created an application to use with this very aim in mind. Crucially, Reliabitaly does not only focus on food and wine, but on Made in Italy at large. Aware of the huge economical losses counterfeit products cause to the country, the association wants, also through the diffusion of its app, to help Italian businesses protect and make more recognizable their products, both nationally and internationally.
Reliabitaly has been building an extensive database of genuine "Made in Italy" products, which is in continuous expansion. For each of the products, the association has verified production processes, origin of materials used and the supply chain associated to the product itself: if it passes all controls, the product receives the Reliabitaly marking and is certified as truly "Made in Italy."
Italian Sounding versus true Made in Italy
Central to the work of Reliabitaly is the concept of Italian Sounding, a denomination associated to all those products that may appear Made in Italy at first glance, but are not. Italian Sounding products are often commercialized using clever, but misleading marketing campaigns that focus on the visual and aural association of the product with Italy. Companies producing Italian Sounding products exploit, in other words, typical representations of Italy and the prestige associated with authentic Made in Italy to advertise products of lower quality.
Typically, Italian Sounding products are cheaply made, using raw materials of lesser quality and not following specific regulations of authenticity (DOP, DOC etc), yet they tend to sell at prices very close to those of real Made in italy, obtaining very high profits. There is more: Italian Sounding products are often produced with lower quality methods aiming at accelerating production, with a sensible decreasing of the final product's quality.
Evidently, the risk of picking an Italian Sounding product instead of one really made in the Bel Paese is higher abroad, where Italian producers find it difficult to protect their brand and make it better known. Many international consumers cannot distinguish between an original product and its counterfeit version, and often opt for the slightly cheaper version or, quite simply, for whatever is available on the shelves of their local supermarket. The presence of Italian Sounding products on the market is a danger for the Italian manufacturer, which faces economical losses, for the consumer, who's been tricked into buying a non genuine product and, overall, for the "Made in Italy" brand itself, which can see its worldwide prestige tarnished.
How it works
As said, Reliabitaly has been working on building a database of "Made in Italy" products, verified and certified. Each product in the database will have the "R" symbol shown on its packaging or label, to make its identification simpler. The app, available for smartphone and tablet, allows consumers to scan products barcodes and view their producers' webpage straight away, giving extra insurance about the origin and authenticity of what they're about to buy.
Reliabitaly app works not only for products in the food and wine industry, but also for all other products which can be easily counterfeited, like clothing or accessories. The database is still growing, so the number of brands and products available for scanning is hopefully going to increase regularly.
The Reliabitaly App is available for both Android and iOS.