Beer Can Shortage: Why It Happened and Potential Options for Breweries

Breweries across the country are feeling the effects of a tightening can supply. The can shortage is a product of several intertwining factors, and breweries nationwide are scrambling for new packaging solutions. Let’s break down why this shortage happened and potential options for breweries looking to maximize their limited supplies.

Why is There a Beer Can Shortage?

To start, aluminum cans are now the preferred form of packaging for brewers. In the first 11 weeks of 2020, cans contained 60 percent of all beer sold. Both consumers and producers show a strong preference to aluminum cans – and not just for beer. Soft drinks, seltzers, and other drinks have shifted to the same cylindrical metal containers, which thinned out the availability of certain cans.

Of course, that strain of can production was only intensified thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once consumers were forced from bars and back into their homes, breweries needed to find new containers that were once meant for kegs. Can usage jumped to 67 percent from week 12 through 20 as a result. In addition, secondary can sources like Anheuser-Busch InBev subsidiary Metal Container Corporation stopped supplying smaller beer producers to focus on its parent company’s canning needs.

Unfortunately for breweries, there is no simple workaround to address the shortage. While major can manufacturers like Ball have added new production lines, the can shortage will likely persist throughout at least the rest of 2020.

16 oz. aluminum beer cans used by breweries as a different sizing option during the can shortage.

3 Potential Solutions to Maximize Supplies During the Can Shortage

Unless you have the means to switch to bottles in the short term, you’ll need to find a way to better utilize the aluminum cans you can access. Long story short, you may need to find some creative solutions for your situation. Fortunately, the following options may help you alleviate some stress create by the can shortage.

Be flexible to different aluminum can sizes

While 12 oz. and 32 oz. cans may be your ideal sizes for beer cans, you may need to be more flexible during a shortage. Don’t be afraid to temporarily try out 25.4 oz. or 16 oz. cans for crowlers or other to-go beers. It may not be your ideal can sizes, but it’s better to be flexible with what you can get so that you can ensure your beers are available for sale.

Of course, you’ll need to check out your local laws to see how much flexibility they allow. Some states limit can sizes for beverages higher than a certain ABV. For example, some local laws may limit crowler sizes to 25.4 oz. and below, whereas others may require a single standard size. Alcohol regulations have changed drastically during the pandemic, so it’s best to reach out to your local guild for the latest updates in your state’s local laws.

Utilize unused screen-printed cans

An empty screen-printed can is an opportunity when you’re in a tight spot. While you may have planned to use those cans for one type of beer, relabeling them can allow you to address canning needs for your other offerings as well. This route can give you some freedom to pick and choose how to use screen-printed cans until you’re able to obtain additional packaging.

When relabeling screen-printed cans, it’s important to make sure that you cover up the proper parts of the screen printing. A half wrap label may leave a bar code, an outdated ABV, or some other detail exposed. A full beer can label or shrink sleeve will help you hide the old screen printing and showcase your desired branding and information.

Do what you can to prevent can waste

When supplies are limited, it’s crucial to try to get the most out of what you have. Label application issues can put a dent in your available supply if you’re not careful, so it’s best to take steps to limit potential problems in the future.

For example, certain applicating environments can lead to label failure. If you’re trying to sell a new sour beer, the acidity from the fruit in that beer can cause oxidation between aluminum can and certain label materials. You’ll want to work with your label printing company to identify any potential problem areas that can lead to avoidable waste, especially when supplies and funds are at a premium. This will not only help prevent potential issues for your can, but also save unnecessary label waste.

Three can wraps used to cover screen printed cans.

Stay Flexible with Digital Label Printing

As we mentioned before, there is no simple workaround to address the shortage. What you can do is be creative with the supplies you have and minimize potential waste. Fortunately, the right label printing company can help you stay flexible and maximize your available supply.

At Blue Label, we have the technology, equipment, and experts to help you properly adapt to your exact situation. Thanks to digital printing technology, we can quickly provide beer labels for various size cans when you need them. Our experts can also work with you to identify potential application issues and provide feedback to limit potential waste.

When situations change, our team is flexible enough to help you determine the best, most cost-effective labeling solution for your exact needs. Contact us today to talk about your next label order.

What are Can Wraps?

Simply put, a can wrap is a form of covering for beer cans and other similar containers. However, the exact meaning of can wrap can differ depending on the intended use.

For some people, a can wrap is an extra covering used to personalize a can or change the exterior of the can from its original appearance. For others, a can wrap is the main label used for a can. In this case, you have a few different options for your can wraps and tin can labels.

Types of Can Wrap Labels

If you’re looking to brand your products with custom can wraps, there are two main routes you can go: Pressure sensitive labels or shrink sleeves.

Pressure sensitive can wraps

Pressure sensitive labels are comprised of multiple layers that are married together prior to application. These layers include:

  • Liner – A backing material typically made of paper or plastic film. This liner is the base of the can wrap and is removed to expose the adhesive during application.
  • Release coat – A special coating applied to the top surface of the liner. This release coat allows the liner to easily peel away from the adhesive layer during application.
  • Adhesive – The adhesive used to hold the label to your can. There are multiple types of adhesives available for pressure sensitive can wraps.
  • Face stock – The label material used for the construction of the can wrap that consumers will see. There are many different types of can wrap materials available, including various films and papers.
  • Top coat – The top layer of your can wrap. This top coat is typically a laminate, a special coating, or some other solution to give the can wrap a finished look and protect it from damage.

Pressure sensitive can wraps are printed and delivered in roll form. These wraps are then applied to your cans when the liner is removed and pressure is applied to form a bond between the label and your container.

Beer cans with a pressure sensitive can wrap.

Shrink sleeve can wraps

Unlike pressure sensitive can wraps, shrink sleeves utilize a special film sleeve to adhere to your cans. These sleeves are shrunk with steam or heat to conform to the shape of your can. The beer can sleeving process offers a few advantages:

  • 360-degree designs
  • Form fitting sleeves that highlight custom shapes
  • Extra design protection

A key difference with shrink sleeves is that, as the name implies, they come in sleeves where the ink is printed on the inside of the label instead of on the face stock. This method adds an extra layer of protection for your label design. However, shrink sleeves will need to be pre-distorted to accommodate the shape of your container when your sleeves are shrunk. Shrink sleeves are also more delicate than pressure sensitive can wraps. Both improper handling and excess temperature and humidity can cause distortion.

Beer cans with a shrink sleeve can wrap going through a filling line.

Identify the Right Can Wraps for Your Containers

Whether you want pressure sensitive labels or shrink sleeves, a good can wrap will make a world of difference for your brand. Of course, there are still plenty of steps required to figure out the right solution for your cans. At Blue Label, our experts work directly with your business to identify the right materials, adhesives, and design considerations to protect your containers and beer can wraps and maximize the appeal of your product.

Ready to invest in quality, cost-effective custom beer can wraps for your business? Contact us today to talk about your labeling and label printing needs.

Label Application Issues: How to Prevent Common Label Defects

A good label makes an important statement to potential customers. Unfortunately, improper application can turn a promising opportunity into a bad look for your product. Label defects come in a variety of forms ranging from minor errors to complete failure. Typical issues include:

  • Wrinkles
  • Darting
  • Air bubbles
  • Cupping
  • Edge lift
  • Tearing during application
  • Adhesive not sticking

Whether it’s due to improper adhesives, applicator issues, or a harsh environment, one thing is certain: defects detract from your product labels. Each fault will negatively impact the appearance of your brand (and that’s if the labels are able to stick to your container in the first place). As such, it’s important to identify the source behind these issues and take steps to solve the situation.

A man examining printed labels for defects.

Potential Causes of Label Application Issues

There are several different reasons why a label would wrinkle, cup, or fall off entirely. Of course, each situation can depend on multiple factors, to name a couple: the type of product you sell or the material and adhesive combination chosen for your label. Once the issue is identified, your label manufacturer and applicator can make the appropriate adjustments to help ensure optimal label performance. To identify the source of your label failure, you’ll want to consider the following potential reasons for label defects.

The container

One of the early steps in identifying potential issues involves knowing your container. It’s important to know the dimensions of your container so that you can base your design around them. The downfall of not knowing your container’s dimensions is that your label could wrinkle or trap in air bubbles upon application. For example, a square label won’t properly apply to a tapered bottle without issue. By tapering your label to fit your dimensions, you can help prevent darting or wrinkles early on in the process.

If you need these dimensions, you should contact the manufacturer of your container for this information. If you use glass bottles, you may have already received something called a “mechanical,” which is essentially a spec sheet for your containers.

It’s also important to recognize that the surface of your container can impact label application. For example, lower quality glass may be pitted or more rigid than smooth. These little peaks and valleys on the surface of your container will trap air under your label upon application, which will result in a higher likelihood of visible bubbles.

The applicating environment and process

In addition to considering the container itself, it’s also important to weigh the condition of the container and the environment surrounding it during application. Environmental factors make a massive impact on which materials and adhesives are right for your labels. Factors like temperature, the presence of moisture, and potential contamination will directly cause peeling or label failure if you don’t plan for them.

Beer labels are a common example of this issue. If a brewery prefills the can and applies a lid, there’s a rinse in the process that makes the cans wet. This situation would call for some type of wet apply adhesive. These options aren’t bulletproof given the nature of water and adhesive, but it will be much more successful than a standard adhesive. If existing moisture is still an issue, you can add what’s called an air knife to blow condensation off the can and lessen the chances of label defects.

Of course, these issues can’t be addressed until you examine your applicating environment and share these details with your label manufacturer. Even small details may help you avoid lengthy troubleshooting. For example, you may need a different adhesive or material solution for a sour beer compare to a standard lager because the acidity from the fruit in the sour beer can cause oxidation between aluminum can and a metallic BOPP material.

Belt problems

Another area of potential concern involves the wrap belt on an applicator. In certain instances, the belt can create a static charge as it moves the cans forward. That static charge can tug on the label and make the label crooked or completely pull it off in the belt area. As this happens, whoever is at the end of the applicator will need to fix affected containers – and that’s if you have an adhesive that you can remove after application.

This static charge can be caused by a few factors. In some cases, there may be too much pressure on the belt. In other, there may not be enough pressure on the belt. Certain circumstances may also call for some form of anti-skid tape to limit the amount of friction and static on the belt. This process is especially helpful for labels with matte or soft touch laminations. These laminations are very hydrophilic, which can cause the wipe down pads to accidentally suck labels off containers. Adding anti-skid tape or even sandpaper will give the backing pad lower surface energy than the lamination, which in turn lowers the odds of accidental label removal.

Liner issues

In some situations, your liner label can be the source of application issues. Labels have either paper or clear plastic liners, but some applicators can’t use one type of liner and vice versa.

Your choice of liner doesn’t cause a lot of issues, but it does impact the die cut. When you cut out the shape of the label, you’re basically pushing down on that liner. You can push down harder on the clear liner because it’s plastic. If you push too hard on the paper, it can make a small hairpin split that’s hard to see. However, if that slightly split paper line is hooked up to an applicator, the pressure and tension used in that applicator can rip the liner and force you to stop production and splice the roll back together.

In this situation, the solution would be to opt for a clear liner as long as your applicator can handle a change. Each applicator has a sensor, but some aren’t set up to work correctly with clear liner. Imagine if you’re trying to scan something that’s clear – it doesn’t always register. In this case, you may need to get a special sensor to avoid potential tearing.

Improper storage

Another potential source of label defects stems from the way labels a stored before application. Certain environmental factors can impact the success of your labels, such as keeping them in a place that’s too hot, cold, dry, or wet. Typically, you want labels stores in a temperature controlled environment – the exact temperature and humidity varies based on your specific label, so make sure to get these details from your label printer if you plan on storing them before use.

While environmental factors can impact all labels during storage, shrink sleeve labels are particularly tricky. Shrink sleeves are made with special materials that make them more susceptible to potential damage prior to application. Excess heat, cold, or other uncontrolled environmental factors can cause shrink sleeves to warp or even melt, leading to distortion or complete failure. As such, these labels require refrigerated trailers for shipping and have particular storage needs to prevent avoidable waste.

Shelf life is another key consideration for potential defects. Typically there’s a one-year warranty on labels, so you don’t want to wait past that time because the adhesive can lose effectiveness if you let it sit that long.

A run of labels made with a collaborative digital label printer.

Work with a Collaborative Label Printing Company

The best tool for preventing label defects is communication. From air bubbles to wrinkles, Blue Label works with you to identify potential hazards and deliver solutions for your label problems. Our experts develop a collaborative relationship with our customers to understand the ins and outs of their label process to avoid issues ahead of time or troubleshoot defects over time.

Ready to work with a collaborative label printing company for your product labels? Contact us today to request label samples or talk to one of our experts about your needs.

Four Reasons Why You Should Consider Shrink Sleeve Labels

More businesses are turning to shrink sleeves for their products. According to a 2018 study, sleeve labels claimed 18 percent of the label market, the vast majority of which comprised of heat shrink labels that conform sleeves to the shape of your container. As a result, sleeve labels are now the third-largest labeling technology behind pressure-sensitive and traditional glue-applied labels – and this growth isn’t expected to slow down.

So why are more businesses utilizing shrink sleeves? These labels provide a variety of design and performance benefits depending on your product. Here are four big reasons why you may want to use shrink sleeve labels for your business.

360 Degree Design Capabilities

One of the most notable benefits of shrink sleeves is that they can provide where other labels are limited: complete container coverage.

While a pressure-sensitive label can be custom-shaped to your container, it can’t compete with a label that’s very nature is to conform to the entire container. This process allows you to brand your goods from neck finish to base, allowing you to adorn your product with a design that covers pretty much every square inch of your container instead of being limited to the main surface area.

A shrink sleeve label on a beer can.

Form Fitting Sleeves Highlight Custom Shapes

Containers come in all shapes and sizes. From squeeze bottles shaped for comfort and performance to custom packaging designed to intrigue consumers, shrink sleeves are a natural fit for products that don’t subscribe to standard shapes.

Since shrink sleeves conform to your container, they provide tremendous opportunity to accentuate certain features of your packaging, whether it’s an ergonomic grip, an extended neck, or some other eye-catching shape.

Extra Design Protection

If you’re concerned about scuffed or scratched labels, you’ll be a fan of shrink sleeves. Pressure-sensitive labels have ink printed on the outside of the label, which means that people may accidentally rub that ink off if you don’t use a laminate or some other form of protection. Shrink sleeves turn this process inside out to eliminate the need for a special shield.

Unlike other types of labels, shrink sleeves have your design printed on the inside of the sleeve. By doing this, you shield your design with a built-in coat of film that is resistant to abrasion and other potential damage. This process can help protect your design from potential damage caused by everyday use.

Potential for Built-in Security

Tamper seals are necessary for specialty foods and other products that require tamper-evident packaging. Shrink sleeves allow you to invest in quality labels and tamper seals at the same time.

While you can design and order separate labels that serve as product seals, you can extend your sleeve over your closure and add a perforation to create a built-in, tearable seal. Perforations will allow your users to tear away only the top over your shrink sleeve, helping you cut down on your application process. In addition, you can extend your label design so that it covers your closure if you don’t want a basic, clear seal.

An assortment of shrink sleeves before they're placed on containers.

Find the Right Labels for Your Products

Whether you need a label for bottles, cans, or a specialty container, shrink sleeves can be an attractive, effective solution for your brand. At Blue Label, we have the expertise and equipment necessary to provide you with quality shrink sleeves designed for your specific design and performance needs.

If you’re ready to invest in shrink sleeves or stick with tried and true pressure sensitive labels, Blue Label can help. Contact us today to have us print the perfect labels for your products.

Hot or Cold? The Role of Temperature in Label Durability

If your products will get hot or cold, it’s important to make sure your choice of label is just right. Whether your containers encounter hot or cold temperatures during application or sometime after, temperature can play a prominent role in identifying the right label for your situation. Here are some specific problems where hot and cold temperatures can wreak havoc with the durability of your product labels.

Heat or Cold Can Make Some Adhesives Fail

Behind every good label is some very important ‘glue’ – literally. Without the adhesive, you’d be stuck with some really nice leaflets to hand out with some blank containers. Unfortunately, hot or cold temperatures can be a dividing force that tears your containers and labels apart.

Temperatures issues can happen right away during the application process. Label adhesives have varying minimum application temperatures. If you apply a label with a certain adhesive outside of its recommended temperature range, it may not have the tack or adhesion necessary to stay on a container. For example, an acrylic adhesive may be a good choice for products that are hot-filled or exposed to higher temperatures, but it may pose problems in colder applicating conditions.

Different temperatures can also cause adhesives to fail at some point after initial application. For example, extreme cold or heat can cause removable label adhesives to break down. After a stay in the freezer or some time in direct sunlight on a summer day, your labels may start to peel off or fall off their containers altogether. In these instances, it would be better to opt for a permanent label designed to handle difficult, environmental factors.

A cold, wet beer can with a pressure sensitive label going through a filling machine.

Some Face Stocks Can’t Face Certain Temperatures

In addition to your adhesive, there’s another critical layer of your label that can be negatively affected by hot or cold temperatures: your face stock. Certain label materials can run into performance issues when forced into environments that are too hot or cold. Fortunately, a little planning can make sure your choice of substrate is perfect for your exact needs.

The first step is to think about exactly where your products and their labels will be in the future? Are they a bottle label that will end up in a refrigerator or a cooler? Will these products end up sitting out in the hot sun or a steamy bathroom? Will they potentially sit in a storage space for a while? Each environment can pose it’s own temperature issues, along with other environmental factors like moisture, humidity, and sunlight.

When it comes to face stocks, film substrates offer better resistance to heat and other damaging elements. Utilizing a material like a BOPP or PET substrate can help give you more peace of mind if your product will encounter any environmental hazards in its future. While paper stocks don’t have quite the durability of their film compatriots, UV varnishes or thicker paper materials can help mitigate the impacts of various temperatures and other issues.

Heat and Cold Can Make Shrink Sleeves Warp

Pressure-sensitive labels aren’t the only labeling option affected by varying temperatures. Shrink sleeve labels also require some care and planning to protect your investment.

While shrink sleeves are a great option for anyone looking for a label that provides 360-degree coverage, one downside is that these labels are very sensitive to environmental factors before application. If shrink sleeves get too hot or cold before they’re applied, they can warp. Not only can this destroy part of your design, it may ruin some shrink sleeves altogether.

To solve this, you’ll want to make sure that your shipping and storage situation can accommodate your shrink sleeves. Depending on the time of year and your location, that can mean temperature-controlled shipping or utilizing temperature gauge labels to check a shipment before you apply damaged sleeves. As for storage, you’ll want a climate-controlled space – or at least one that won’t become freezing cold or sweltering hot when the weather shifts.

A six-pack of beer with durable product labels sitting on a storage space floor.

Invest in the Durable Labels for Your Environments

There’s a lot more to a label than just the design. From the liner to the top coat, every part plays a role in your label. When you work with Blue Label, we help you invest in durable labels designed for your specific performance and budget needs – all while ensuring that your design dazzles your customers.

Want to work with a company that can provide you with quality, cost-effective labels that can stand the heat (or cold)? Contact us today about your next label printing project.

Allow Us to Reintroduce Ourselves

At Blue Label, we’re subscribers to the idea of continuous improvement. This means we constantly strive to do a little bit better. Whether it’s updating a method to clean a printing press that prevents a breakdown, finding a new adhesive that is more reliable, or improving artwork software to catch more potential errors, we are always striving to improve.

That same principle applies to our name itself. Over the past few years, we have continued to work on what we do best: high quality labels and packaging with fast turnarounds. While doing this, we added new product lines. A few years ago, we started offering hang tags and keg collars. In 2019, we began producing shrink sleeves with the same high quality and quick turns our customers expect from us. All this to say, we are constantly evolving to better meet the demands of the people we serve.

With the evolution of our processes and product offerings, we felt our name needed to evolve too. From here on out, we are changing our name to Blue Label Packaging Company. We specialize in printing high quality packaging and labels with industry best turnarounds times, and that’s what we’ll always do. Blue Label will continue to focus on the customer service and the constant improvement that is the heart of our company.

A breakdown of the main aspects of Blue Label's new branding.

If you are taking the time to read this, I’d like to thank you for supporting Blue Label. This company has seen a lot of success over the past few years, and that success has made a lot of people’s (and quite a few dogs’ and cats’) lives better. We are very thankful for the opportunity to serve our customers and hopefully working with us has made your life a little easier.

So, allow us to introduce our new name: Blue Label Packaging Company. Just like the Blue Label you’ve always known, but slightly better.

Thanks for everything,

Shrink Sleeves: Storage and Shipping

Shrink sleeves are an increasingly popular labeling option for a variety of businesses that want 360-degree coverage for their products. However, shrink sleeves are more delicate than other types of labels, which can pose some problems during shipping and storage.

The special materials used for shrink sleeves makes these labels more susceptible to potential damage, especially when they’re being transported or saved for future use. Fortunately, a little preparation can help you protect your shrink sleeve labels ahead of application, especially when it comes to environmental concerns and handling.

Maintain Temperature Control

One of the challenges involved with shipping and storing shrink sleeves is that these labels are very sensitive to environmental changes. If the shrink sleeves get too hot, cold, wet, dry, or anything else, it can cause the material to react and distort the labels or worse, make them completely unusable. It’s important to make your shipping and storage areas as climate controlled as possible to keep your investment safe.

A warehouse with shrink sleeves and other product labels.

These environmental factors can be a major concern when it comes to shipping. If it’s a hot month, it can get be sweltering in an unprotected truck bed. In the winter, the opposite can happen. In some cases, companies will even used temperature-controlled shipping to transport shrink sleeves to protect against any damage that can happen during transit. Some applicators will also require temperature gauge labels that will display if a shipment got too hot or cold. This way they’ll know that a shipment was compromised right away and won’t waste production time trying to apply warped shrink sleeves on containers.

Storage can also be an issue without some planning. Warehouses or other storage facilities can undergo fluctuating temperatures and humidity levels. Both of these can affect the ink on the shrink sleeves or warp the label material over time. As such, its encouraged that you or your applicator have climate-controlled storage area if you plan to have any extra shrink sleeves on standby or if there will be a delay between delivery and application.

Handle Shrink Sleeves with Care

Environmental factors aren’t the only potential danger to shrink sleeves. Improper handling can also cause scrapes, scuffs, and other unsightly damage.

One advantage of shrink sleeves is that the ink is printed on the inside of the label. This process protects the ink from scratches after the sleeve is applied to a can or some other container. However, the ink isn’t protected until after application – remember, heat will make the sleeves warp prematurely – which means there’s not a lot protecting that ink until that step. As a result, it’s important to delicately handle sleeves before application.

Of course, shrink sleeves can require a lot of handling after they’re printed. Depending on your vendors, your printer may need to send the rolls to a converter to seam them into sleeves. After that, the sleeves are shipped to an applicator, also known as a decorator, that apply them to your containers.

Since shrink sleeves need a little extra protection before application, it’s important to take steps to help limit the potential of damages caused by improper handling. Some label printing companies have converting equipment in house, which will cut down on the number of times your labels are shipped and handled. Your printer can also put labels on boxes containing shrink sleeves so that everyone knows the contents are delicate.

A woman carefully handling shrink sleeves for new products.

Work with a Printing Company that Takes Care of Your Shrink Sleeves

Shrinks sleeves can help you achieve a special look for your products, but it’s important to work with a label printing company that gives you the labels you need to succeed. At Blue Label, we’ve invested in both state-of-the-art digital printing presses and shrink sleeve converting equipment. That means we can not only print quality shrink sleeves, we can also help you cut down on the number of vendors you’ll need, the amount of times your shrink sleeves are handled, and the length of production time.

Ready to invest in quality shrink sleeves for your products? Contact Blue Label today to talk to our experts about your next label project.

What is a Shrink Sleeve Label?

When you want to brand your product from top to bottom, shrink sleeve labels give you a way to create 360-degree coverage for your products. Shrink sleeves have grown in popularity over the past few decades after making an initial splash when Tylenol used them to combine attractive labeling with tamper-evident sealing.

Shrink sleeves are now growing in popularity for cans, bottles, and other containers, but there are still many people in need of quality product packaging who don’t know how these labels work. Here’s a quick breakdown of what a shrink sleeve label is and what makes it different from other labeling solutions.

What is a Shrink Sleeve?

Shrink sleeve labels are full-color, 360-degree printed labels that utilize heat in the application process to conform the label to the shape of the container. The labels are typically printed on either plastic or polyester film material and are commonly used on aluminum cans and glass or plastic bottles.

The opening of a shrink sleeve label used for various containers.

Looking for Custom Shrink Sleeves?

Custom shrink sleeve labels allow you to add a “second skin” to your containers. When the film sleeve is placed around your container and heat is applied, it conforms to the shape of the container to create a look like it’s truly part of your product.

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Benefits of Shrink Sleeves

One of the greatest advantages of using shrink sleeves is that it allows you a 150 percent increase in label real estate compared to pressure sensitive labels. This additional space can be used to help tell your brand story, add more imagery, or make room for all of the regulatory information that needs to go on your label.

Beyond branding, shrink sleeves can function as more than just a label. Like in the Tylenol example, shrink sleeves can double as tamper-evident sealing to give your products the extra security they need with a perforated shrink cap. Shrink sleeves can also be used to package multiple items together for the purpose of offering it as one product. Because shrink sleeves are form-fitting, you can package different sized and shaped containers, like free samples or two-for-one deals, together easily.

Another benefit of using shrink sleeves is that they are very made of very durable materials. This makes them an excellent labeling option for products like hair care products and beer that are often in humid or moisture-heavy environments like showers and refrigerators.

How Do Shrink Sleeves Work?

Like regular labels, shrink sleeves give you a means to add branding and product information on a container. The process of applying a shrink sleeve involves shrinking a film sleeve with steam or heat so that it conforms to the shape of your container instead of laying on the surface with an adhesive. However, before you can apply the shrink sleeve there are a few different steps that have to happen.

Creating the sleeve

As the name suggests, one of the key differences between shrink sleeves and pressure sensitive labels (i.e. sticker-like labels) is that they come in “sleeves.” Like pressure-sensitive labels, shrink sleeves can be printed on flexographic or digital printing presses. Unlike traditional labels, the ink is printed on the inside of the sleeve instead of on top of the label material. This allows the film to naturally protect the ink as it adheres to the container.

Once the sheets are printed, they need to be converted into sleeves. Some print shops, like Blue Label, do this step in-house to limit the number of times people handle these delicate products before they are applied. Other printers may need to send the sheets to shrink sleeve converters, which results in more opportunities for someone to mishandle the shrink sleeves, obstruct the ink, or cause some form of damage to these labels.

Regardless of who completes the process, the converter will seam the ends of the sheets together to leave openings at the top and bottom of the newly created sleeve. This is done by taking the ends of the film and sealing them together with a specific type of glue to create a loose cylinder. These seams are then inspected to ensure that the sleeves won’t break open as they’re applied. Once done, the film is inspected and shipped as either rolls or individual sheets depending on your application needs.

A shrink sleeve slipped over a beer can.

Adjusting the design to the sleeve

One of the big draws of shrink sleeves is that it conforms to the shape of your container: every angle, curve, or unique shape. However, this also means that your label design needs to be properly prepared to conform to this shape as well.

Due to the shrinking process, your label design will warp as the sleeve is heated and conforms to your container. Similar to how you need to adjust your design for tapered pressure-sensitive labels, you’ll need to pre-distort your design based on the shape of your container. As such, you’ll want to work with a label designer and label printer who can pre-distort designs for custom container shapes before your sleeves are printed.

Applying the sleeve

Once your sleeves are ready, it’s time to apply them to your containers. In addition to printers – and sometimes converters – you may also require an applicator if you don’t have the right equipment in house. Either way, the sleeves are slipped over your containers and sent through a heat or steam tunnel, where the intense heat will shrink the film around the container.

It’s important to note that since the film is made to react when exposed to heat, it’s vital that they don’t get too hot or cold before they’re applied to your containers. Excess temperature in either direction can cause pre-shrinkage or affect the ink on the labels, which can impact the quality of the label and even render them unusable. As such, proper storage and shipping is a must, especially since you may require multiple locations to create and apply shrink sleeves.

How Do I Work with a Shrink Sleeve Label Company?

Ready to cover your containers with quality shrink sleeves? First, you’ll need a good designer if you don’t have one already. Check out our designer directory to find a professional that can help you achieve the perfect look for your products.

Once your design is ready, you’ll need to find the right shrink sleeve label company. At Blue Label, we have the experts and equipment to guide you through the shrink sleeve printing and converting process. Our hands-on team will work with you to identify opportunities, such as testing barcodes that may be skewed from the shrinking process. We can then carefully ship your shrink sleeves to your applicator of choice to help you get your products to market.

Contact Blue Label today to talk to one of our experts about investing in shrink sleeves for your products.