Counterfeit Tequila: The Growing Threat to Consumers & Brands

  • Brand Protection
Counterfeit Tequila: The Growing Threat to Consumers & Brands

Tequila is a crucial ingredient in many of the world’s most popular cocktails — and can also be enjoyed on its own with salt and a wedge of lemon or lime. But there’s a chance that the tequila you’re drinking isn’t real.

In this blog, we address a critical issue within the industry — the prevalence of counterfeit tequila in the market and the dangers associated with it. Counterfeit tequila can pose risks to consumer health, brand reputation, and even manufacturers’ legal standing. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the risks and take measures to protect your brand and your customers.

The growing threat of counterfeit alcohol

According to a recent report, the EU loses €3 billion per year to fake alcohol [1]. In the UK alone, fake alcohol costs the economy more than £200 million (US$242m) per year, and leads to the loss of nearly 3,000 jobs [2].

The majority of fake alcoholic beverages sold globally are spirits, namely whiskey, vodka, and tequila. With the latter, there are two tell-tale signs that a bottle could be counterfeit:

  • It isn’t labeled as ‘100% agave’ (premium brands are all 100% agave; lower-end brands may contain sugar and syrups but will be at least 50% agave.)
  • It is made and bottled outside of Mexico (all authentic tequila is bottled and made in Mexico.)

The prevalence of counterfeit tequila is a growing issue, and the problem is not limited to developing countries but extends to all regions globally. Reports allege that counterfeit tequila has even made its way as far as Australian bars, pubs, and liquor stores.

The fraudulent products often look deceptively similar to the authentic ones, making it challenging for consumers to differentiate. Counterfeiters are using transparent packaging which closely resembles that used by genuine brands. Fakes have also been found to be using harmful ingredients such as methanol, which is both odourless and colourless making it difficult to spot. Even a small volume of methanol can poison the drinker, with symptoms taking up to 24 hours to display [3]. Alarmingly, some counterfeit alcohol is found to contain 44,000 times the safe level of methanol [4].

The damages caused by counterfeit tequila aren’t limited to consumer health alone but also impact the brands’ image and reputation. If consumers mistakenly associate an inferior product with a reputable and known brand, it can lead to long-term damage to the brand’s image.

It is therefore crucial to implement robust processes to detect and prevent the distribution of counterfeit tequila. By doing so, brands can protect their consumers, reputation, and revenue both online and offline.

Fighting back against counterfeiters

The severity of the counterfeit tequila problem is evident, and while authentication technologies such as hologram labels and QR codes can help authorities identify counterfeits, they do not provide a scalable solution. The good news, however, is that there are effective tech-enabled solutions to ensure that you keep pace with the threat and prevent the distribution of such products. Legal, brand protection, and marketing teams can use technology to find and enforce against online sellers across marketplaces, websites, social media, and other channels.

To stop the source of counterfeits, you’ll need to utilize network intelligence technology and offline investigations. By combining online and offline data and coordinating with your on-the-ground specialists (whether in-house or external), you can protect critical supply chains and take down the criminal operators putting consumers at risk. It should be noted that close collaboration with platforms (B2B and B2C), intermediaries, and law enforcement is an essential component to limiting the supply and distribution of counterfeit alcohol.

Lastly, educating customers on how to identify fake alcoholic beverages and the dangers they pose to health can add another layer of protection against counterfeit goods. Unfortunately, some consumers will seek out counterfeit alcohol due to its low price, with little thought given to what it contains.

Talk to an anti-counterfeiting expert

Harness Corsearch’s AI-powered Stop Counterfeits solution to swiftly remove counterfeits counterfeit at scale, across all channels.

Talk to one of our experts to learn how you can get global visibility of fakes and demonstrate real impact with our expert-led enforcement.