Counterfeiting is everywhere.
Every day we come into contact with counterfeit products. In the world of fashion, technology, music and cinema, luxury goods.
And even spirits.


Il 7-9% Of goods produced worldwide are counterfeit*
705 billion dollars the estimated value of counterfeit goods sold all over the world **


More than 270,000 jobs have been lost during the past 10 years due to counterfeiting*


125.000 jobs lost in the European Community*


For any manufactured good, a percentage is counterfeit


*source INDICAM / **source WCO




Spirits Counterfeiting

The consequences of spirits counterfeiting are among the most serious.
Apart from the economic damage, it causes serious damage to health and the death of tens of thousands of people every year.

1 billion dollars  The value of counterfeit alcohol production in the world

12% The percentage of counterfeit or illicit spirits in the global market

43.000 People who die each year in Russia after drinking counterfeit or illicit spirits (in 2008, 1,069 died in the city of Moscow alone)

250% The growth of counterfeit food and drink around the world from 2003 to 2005

N. 1 Because of their brand value and the high level of taxation of alcohol, alcoholic drinks are the most counterfeited beverages





Affecting every country in the world, counterfeiting is a huge illegal phenomenon and much of it is managed by criminal organisations



Southeast Asia
50% of total goods production is counterfeit
Largest producing countries:
China, Korea, Taiwan
Countries of destination:
60% European Union
Mediterranean Basin 
35% Of total goods production is counterfeit
Largest producing countries:
Italy, Spain, Turkey, Morocco
Countries of destination:
European Union, USA, Africa, Eastern Europe


The methods for counterfeiting spirits are varied: from the simple substitution of the contents of the bottle with an inferior product to the production of totally fake packaging and contents which reproduce well known brands and contain ingredients seriously harmful to consumers’ health.


Replacing the authentic product in the original bottle


  • A bottle’s content is ‘refilled’ with a very low quality, and therefore cheaper, product.
  • This is the easiest and most common form of counterfeiting because it can be done by independent bar and restaurant owners.










Reconstruction of the packaging using its original elements

  • Removal and re-use of closure
  • Re-assembly of a closure using components of different closures
  • Application of a new label
  • Application of a new duty stamp
  • Re-use of bottles
  • Re-use of the outer packaging (e.g. box)







Complete manufacturing of a new packaging



  • Production of certain or all components of the closure
  • Assembly and decoration of the closure
  • Application of a new label
  • Application of a new duty stamp
  • Production of new bottles (even if there is also the re-use of the original ones)
  • production of new outer packaging





The effects

As well as the economic damage to companies, workers and governments which characterises counterfeiting generally, the production of fake alcohol causes serious social and health damage to people.




  • Serious health hazard.
  • Strong increase in the damaging effects of alcoholism, with even moderate consumption causing serious danger.
  • Intoxication and death caused by poisonous substances.
  • inability to identify the manufacturer and claim compensation for the damage caused.


The health dangers of counterfeit alcohol come from the harmful substances and additives used to simulate the more expensive natural raw materials. Highly toxic substances are also created by the wrong and improper production processes used.


The dangerous substances contained in counterfeit alcohol:



It is the most basic industrial alcohol, also known as methyl alcohol or wood alcohol. At room temperature it appears as a colorless liquid with the characteristic odor.
Methanol is toxic and causes suppression of the central nervous system while its metabolites (formaldehyde and formic acid) are responsible for damage to the optic nerve and retina. The lethal dose for a human being varies from 0.3 to 1 g per kg of body weight.
If temperature is not controlled during the distillation process used to make alcoholic beverages, methanol can be produced in addition to the desired ethyl alcohol. Methanol can cause liver damage, blindness, coma and even death.


It’s a powerful bactericide and in common use. Aqueous solutions of formaldehyde are widely used as disinfectants for domestic use and it is used as bactericide in the production of fabrics for industry. Formaldehyde solutions are also used to store samples of biological material. It is also widely used for embalming techniques.
Formaldehyde, together with the urea, is used as glue for the production of
chipboard panels.


As a food additive, it is used as a preservative and identified by the code E240. Formaldehyde-based resins are widely used in the production of coatings and insulating foam, and over time can release formaldehyde molecules into the environment – making formaldehyde one of the most common indoor pollutants.
At air concentrations above 0.1ppm, it can irritate humans via inhalation and also cause damage to eyesight. Ingestion or exposure to large quantities are potentially lethal. Since 2004, it has been included on the Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)’s list of carcinogens for humans.

Ethylene glycol

It’s the simplest of chemical compounds. Widely used as an antifreeze (either in its pure form, or in solution), ethylene glycol has, over the years, become an important component in the manufacture of polyester fibres and resins – including polyethylene terephthalate (or PET) used in the production of transparent bottles for food use.
Ethylene glycol is toxic if swallowed and cases large quantities of it being used to adulterate products occur frequently in the news (wine, toothpaste…). The first symptoms of being poisoned are similar to those of ethanol consumption (i.e. drinking alcohol): confusion, difficulties in speaking, poor movement co-ordination etc. But over the time, the body metabolises ethylene glycol into an oxalic acid that can cause kidney failure.





  • Tax evasion
  • Employment.
  • Reduction in number of legal jobs.
  • Abolition of the guarantees for and rights of works.
  • In addition to increased medical costs, rise in collective costs for the prevention and repression of the problem.


The damages caused by counterfeiting – and in particular alcohol counterfeiting – to individual consumers and legitimate businesses inevitably create serious consequences and affects society in general.

Reduction of economic resources available to the community

Most counterfeit products are always sold without payment of legitimate taxes. A loss of income for countries and states, which in turn leads to a reduction of services, affecting the legitimate taxpayer and increasing of government debt.

Increased Unemployment

It is estimated that over the last ten years, counterfeiting has led to the loss of more than 270,000 jobs around the world. The ‘jobs’ in the counterfeiting industry involve massive exploitation: long working hours, no employee or work rights, low pay and, very importantly, no basic safety guarantees in the workplace.

Increase in collective costs

Counterfeiting is a criminal activity with a high social impact and organised structures of great complexity and efficiency. National and international public bodies are forced to devote significant resources to developing ways to fight and prevent the phenomenon – resources that could be used for more positive work. Spirits counterfeiting in particular involves the extreme danger of the products to consumers’ health, and the increasing consequences of alcohol dependency – all meaning a substantial increase in healthcare costs for the community.




  • Reduction in sales and market share
  • Damage to company and brand image
  • Damage to the economy of different countries


The producers of legal goods are obviously the first victims of counterfeiting. Companies suffer direct and serious damage in terms of a reduction in sales and image, and damage to the prestige of the brand and its credibility.

Reduction in sales

A consumer who buys a counterfeit product obviously does not buy a legal product. The most immediate damage caused to companies by counterfeiting is therefore the ‘no sale’: the consumer chooses that brand because he considers it better than another but, consciously or unconsciously, he buys a counterfeit version. Counterfeiting takes advantage of the credibility built by the legal producer for ‘stealing’ an existing customer.

Reduction in market share and potential growth

The reduction in sales causes lower revenues – an immediate damage that, in the medium-long term, can lead to a reduction in the growth and market share acquisition, which require resources to be invested for the expansion of the company and for research and innovation.

Damage to company image and brand

Building the reputation and credibility of a brand is the key to success for a company or product. Creating this company asset requires time, business skills and large investments. The presence of counterfeit products on the market, almost always of low quality, affects the prestige of the brand and is likely to impair and reduce the brand image.

Increase in ‘unprofitable’ costs

To prevent counterfeiting the manufacturer is forced to divert resources to business and product improvement and to invest in the research of solutions to limit the spread of counterfeit products (communication and awareness campaigns, packaging technology, etc.)

Damage to general economic systems of different countries

The loss of income for the companies affects indirectly also the economies of the countries where they operate with a reduction in overall wealth produced and a decrease in tax revenue.