There is a constant buzzing and rattling in the production hall in Münchendorf, Lower Austria, huge rolls of adhesive film run through meter-long machines and are printed, coated, provided with NFC tags, holograms or other security features and then cut in XNUMX-hour operation. “Our newest machine will arrive next week, then the production hall will be full,” says managing director Marietta Ulrich-Horn, not without pride. What is clear at first glance: In this hall, no conventional printed matter, but technically sophisticated print products are produced, namely security labels and seals for physical product and tamper protection - the core product of Securikett. 

Niche player with a broad base

Securikett was founded by Marietta Ulrich-Horn and her husband Werner Horn in 2001. The two of them already brought the entrepreneurial spirit with them: Marietta Ulrich-Horn ran the family company Ulrich Etiketten, founded by her great-grandfather, and Werner Horn was at that time Managing director of his parents' textile company in Germany. “I already had a great deal of specialist knowledge in the field of label printing and then, on the occasion of the introduction of the Austrian motorway vignette at the end of the 1990s, I began to deal with security labels in more detail. This gave rise to the idea of ​​founding a niche company that does not have a broad label portfolio but instead deliberately specializes in security labels", says Ulrich-Horn. As a result, the relevant know-how was built up. "It took a long period of investment, development work, inventions and patents before we could even serve this market," says the entrepreneur.

First opening note: When peeled off, security labels change their print image and leave an effect on the packaging.
First opening notice: When peeled off, security labels change their print image and leave an effect on the packaging.

The first anti-tampering product finally came onto the market in XNUMX, and in XNUMX Securikett received its first major order for security seals from a British pharmaceutical giant. At Securikett it was quickly recognized that without an indication of initial opening, any security feature is pointless: It could easily be transferred to a counterfeit product. 

A second important mainstay in the early years were security labels for clothing and leather goods from Italian luxury brands. “This business suddenly disappeared due to the financial crisis in 2008. We survived because we always diversified our business and have never made ourselves dependent on a single industry, ”emphasizes Werner Horn. Thanks to this risk diversification, Securikett is not one of the losers in the corona crisis. “Sure, we are also feeling the big slump in the global luxury goods industry and in the automotive sector. But three of the largest pharmaceutical companies - independently of each other - ordered security seals for their therapies and vaccines against Covid-19 with us, ”says Ulrich-Horn. New and expensive drugs are particularly affected by counterfeiting: "The more expensive and rarer a product is, the stronger the pull on the counterfeit industry."

Grand opening: Managing Director Werner Horn presents a security printing machine at the opening of the new company location in Münchendorf in 2017.
Grand opening: Managing Director Werner Horn presents a security printing machine at the opening of the new company premises in Münchendorf in 2017.

The whole world as a market

Current figures underscore why product protection is becoming more and more important: According to the OECD Counterfeit goods account for 3,3 percent of world trade, and the black market for counterfeit handbags, drugs and car seats is estimated at several thousand billion dollars per year. This not only causes enormous economic damage, but also harbors risks for the health and safety of consumers. In the fight against counterfeit goods, companies are therefore increasingly dependent on end-to-end authentication systems.

A global problem for which there is just such a market for a solution - Securikett's export quota is currently 90 percent (see interview). Customers are predominantly corporations with markets all over the world, especially in China, Vietnam and the entire Asian region. The pioneers in product protection and still the most important customer group of Securikett today are international pharmaceutical groups that have been relying on special tamper evidence and product protection for product launches of expensive prescription drugs in new markets - especially in developing regions - for some time. "We have less access to smaller companies that only produce for emerging and developing country markets, because we usually only deliver when a government takes action," explains Werner Horn. For example, Securikett manufactures scratch-off labels for medicines in Nigeria. Contacts in countries such as Oman, Egypt, Jordan or Iraq are repeatedly established through trade fairs. "Nevertheless: the market would certainly be much larger than our range allows," says Horn.

The main challenge in opening up new markets is that Securikett does not offer standardized products, but only customer-specific products, for whose development close contact is essential. “Our research and development department also produces prototypes for customers to check the surfaces and test which adhesive holds best. We often have to start with small series until we have found the end product in terms of product and design. A sales partner in India cannot do that in this form and to this extent”, explains Ulrich-Horn.

Interview with Werner Horn, Securikett

The founding couple Marietta Ulrich-Horn and Werner Horn

More than secure

Why product protection goes beyond counterfeit protection and where labels still have potential, explains Securikett managing director Werner Horn.

Security and innovation

Medication boxes on which an individual serial number and a tamper-proof seal are visible.
Tamper protection and an individual serial number are already required by law for many drugs and are intended to make counterfeits easier to identify.

In addition to increased awareness of the global consequences of product fraud, the legal framework is an important driver for the security label business. Since the beginning of 2019, every prescription drug in the EU has to carry an individual serial number and protection against tampering. Also tobacco products have to be given a unique identification number since the previous year in order to give a halt to the trade in counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes. Here too, Securikett is well represented. “It is in the business with such official security labels that the really big projects take place. But the real innovation pushes can be found elsewhere”, says Ulrich-Horn.

The food sector, for example, which is booming in Asia, demands innovation and ingenuity. "In Europe, forgery-proof labeling of food and beverages plays a negligible role, in China, however, producers can hardly sell their high-quality spirits without a safety application on the bottle cap that ensures that the product is genuine and untampered with", says Werner Horn and points to a folder full of cognac, scotch and whiskey labels. Closure labels for the food industry are particularly demanding and require close cooperation with the manufacturer, because the application to a wide variety of bottle caps is much more difficult than, say, to a cardboard box.

Digital foothold and beyond

However, it was clear to the entrepreneurs early on that with “sticking labels alone” they would not get very far in the age of digitization. In 2010 they decided to set up a digital product line, two years later the specially developed Codikett software solution came onto the market. On the one hand, the cloud platform for tracing products enables companies to monitor and analyze the supply chain seamlessly, and on the other hand, consumers can clearly determine whether they are holding an original product in their hands. This is ensured by a unique encrypted code, which is printed as a QR code, or embedded as an RFID or NFC tag. If the product is tampered with, an indicator is torn and upon scanning the code the system shows that the bottle or carton has already been opened. “Our competitive advantage is that we offer both physical product protection and digital product authentication from a single source. Because the secure serialization and product codes have to be applied to the product somehow”, says Ulrich-Horn.

The two founders, however, do not content themselves with their current unique selling proposition, and are always put on the lookout for potential new business opportunities. Securikett would soon like to make e-commerce a little more secure. The company is therefore investing considerable resources in perfecting tamper-proof adhesive tapes, so-called void tapes. “We see great potential in the mail-order business. Because online retail will have to protect its products better. On the one hand, the consumer expects to receive an original product, and on the other hand, the problem of fraud due to incorrect returns is growing. In particular, personalized e-commerce with lots of small packages calls for solutions”, says Ulrich-Horn.

Where the journey should go in the coming years and which specific market opportunities are to be used, the entrepreneur couple leaves it open. In any case, Securikett does not want to lose grip in terms of research and development: “The idea of ​​innovation should always remain in focus. The counterfeiters are quick, so we too have to constantly develop and adapt”, emphasizes Ulrich-Horn. In any case, there is room for further growth: In the midst of the corona crisis, the company acquired the neighboring property for a second production hall.


MASTERS OF PRODUCT SECURITY

The product protection solutions from the family company Securikett make original products reliably distinguishable from counterfeits - and the company becomes a real hidden champion. In Asia in particular, security labels and seals are in greater demand than ever.

The founding couple Marietta Ulrich-Horn and Werner Horn
Founding couple Marietta Ulrich-Horn and Werner Horn

Founded in XNUMX by Marietta Ulrich-Horn and Werner Horn the security printing company Securikett offers customized security labels with protection against manipulation, for example for products in the luxury goods, beverage, pharmaceutical and automotive industries. The products are characterized by their customer-specific void effect: If the label is manipulated, the colors and the printed image change. And the demand is huge: Securikett currently exports to more than XNUMX countries, more than XNUMX percent of them in Asia. The company currently employs XNUMX people and is growing in the double-digits range every year. In XNUMX, sales were just under EUR XNUMX million. In October XNUMX, Securikett moved to the new company headquarters in Münchendorf near Vienna. 

Photos: Securikett, Melanie Pölzinger