The wine industry is plagued by knockoffs. Piracy tactics range from mis-labelled bottles, over diluting of products to using similar-but-different brands – a glass of Benfolds, anyone? You can talk about “the sincerest form of flattery”, but don’t do it around Treasury Wine Estates.
Cellr, a clever start-up from Bibra Lake in Western Australia is working on an answer and showing that digitalisation offers fantastic opportunities to manufacture new solutions.
Cellr combines blockchain-based authentication with state-of-the-art communications and microelectronics technology. Their product is a capsule hiding in a bottle’s lid or cork providing both traceability throughout the supply chain and tamper prevention. To go one better, a scan of the device by a customer’s smartphone can bring up product and marketing information.
This is not an easy solution to design, engineer and bring to market. For one, each device needs to be strong enough to survive a high-speed production environment and the logistics chain, yet delicate enough to break with the bottle’s seal. Then there is the challenge of non-line-of-sight electronic reading up to a metre away, and without the signal getting interrupted by liquid or metal.
Furthermore, Cellr needs to achieve economies of scale. It aims to manufacture one unit at 10 to 20 cents once it reaches 1 million units. This is because it wants to provide a viable solution for wines $40 and up.
In order to get to market as quickly as possible, Cellr is collaborating with the state’s South West Development Commission, plus, a major Australian beverage company, and the country’s biggest contract wine bottler, Portavin Integrated Wine Services.
Cellr was started in 2016 by two sober entrepreneurs who saw a need to automate stocktake and inventory management in hospitality. After early success, they came across the problem of fake wines and pivoted in late-2018.
It’s a fascinating solution with incredible potential, designed and made in Australia. Beyond the rivers of fake wine, think of all the authentication around the world needed for spirits, perfumes, Manuka honey and countless other goods.