Despite their prevalence on store shelves, shrink sleeves are a relatively recent development, dating back to the 1960s where they were used only as a tamper-evident solution. Technology developed quickly, and by the 1990s, we began seeing full-length, fully designed shrink sleeve labels for bottles. And just recently, we’ve seen the emergence of glow-in-the-dark shrink sleeves, microwaveable films and an increase in finishing options.
Right now, improvements in shrink sleeve technology are fueling popularity, and popularity is fueling research into further improving capabilities. That’s a big reason shrink sleeve labels are one of the fastest-growing segments of the labeling industry, boasting an estimated annual growth rate of 6.5% over the next five years.
This article explores the challenges of shrink sleeve labeling, why it’s an attractive label choice and how to avoid common problems for your product’s shrink sleeve.
Understanding the challenges of shrink sleeve labeling
As shrink sleeve labeling technology matures and evolves, more and more premium beverage brands, personal care products and performance nutraceutical brands are leveraging shrink sleeve bottle labels for enhanced shelf appeal and product protection. It’s a highly valuable labeling method proven to establish connections with consumers at the point of purchase and, most importantly, drive sales.
But shrink sleeve labeling does not come without its challenges, namely designing sleeves for unique bottle shapes without any shrink distortion. It’s a complex process requiring a high level of precision and expertise, and this risk must be considered when deciding to partner with a shrink sleeve supplier.
More than a vendor, your label manufacturer should supply striking labels perfectly aligned with your brand vision while keeping up with the ever-fluctuating demand for each of your product lines. With ample room for error, the label manufacturer you choose —and the quality standards they hold themselves to— will dictate the quality of your branding on the shelf.
Why brands choose shrink sleeves for premium products
In today’s market, we’re able to bring almost any design vision to life and contour to almost any bottle shape, with enhanced abrasion resistance, moisture resistance and product resistance. And there’s great variety within the shrink sleeve category: Full-body sleeves with tamper-evident seals over the cap, sleeves wrapped around multiple products in a promotion, smaller bands and more.
With shrink sleeves, there’s ample room for brands to test their creativity and customize their label to their product’s functional and branding needs. Here are a couple of reasons food, beverage, personal care, nutraceutical brands and more have looked to shrink sleeves to differentiate their product bottles on the shelf:
360 degrees to tell your brand story and build consumer trust
Because shrink sleeves provide full-product coverage, you can communicate more on your label, from branding to product use instructions to regulatory information and serialization.
As transparency and trust are increasingly being tied to brand loyalty, shrink sleeves provide an opportunity to be transparent about your brand and product by communicating more information on your label.
Choice between short and long runs
Shrink sleeves used to be limited to larger runs. Now brands have a lot of flexibility in run size and a choice between using a digital or flexographic printing press.
Digital allows for shorter runs, quicker turnarounds and label-by-label variation for promotional campaigns or flavor variations within a product line. While cost-prohibitive for shorter runs, flexo tends to be the best value for larger runs, providing standardized quality and great design versatility.
Better label —and product— protection
Shrink sleeves are exceptionally good at withstanding wear during shipping and handling, as the film materials —typically polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polypropylene terephthalate glycol (PETG)— are naturally resistant to abrasion, environment, water and the product itself. This, combined with the fact that the image is printed on the inside of the sleeve, protects the graphics from wear or fade throughout the product lifecycle.
Shrink sleeves can even protect the product by providing added strength to the bottle, allowing for packagers to reduce the wall thickness of plastic or glass bottles while still protecting the contents. And shrink sleeves with tamper-evident elements further protect your products from pilfering prior to sale. Both of these innovations not only add value to the product’s label — they also reduce the total cost of your product’s packaging.
These innovations in shrink sleeve labeling —surrounding functionality and safety— are cited as among the most important to consumers when making a purchasing decision, according to one study. The study also linked innovative packaging with purchasing behavior: Consumers who are satisfied by a product’s packaging are more likely to buy it again.
Generally speaking, shrink sleeves cost more than other label types. But the cost is easily justified for higher-end products, especially considering more than a third of consumers have chosen a product because of eye-catching packaging according to Packaging Matters.
Shrink sleeves offer full-color and full-body branding — making your product stand out against the competition on the shelf. And good packaging translates to good sales.
Choosing the right labeling partner for your shrink sleeves
Experience, exceptional service and proven reliability are three traits you need to look for in a shrink sleeve labeling supplier. Here are the ways an experienced shrink sleeve labeling manufacturer helps you avoid common bottle label problems:
Avoid shrink distortion
The art file is distorted using computer software during the pre-press process —taking into account the shrinking properties of the film and the shape of the bottle— so the sleeve displays the desired branding when shrunk. Great care must be taken in the prepress stage using 3D modeling software to ensure the finished label appears as intended, with no mistakes.
Manage art files for all product lines
In addition to constantly working with you to improve your current labels —making them store better, last longer post sale, ship better— your label manufacturer should be able to store and manage all art files for all of your product lines.
Partner with you to plan for fluctuating inventory needs
You need your labels exactly when you need them. Look for a label manufacturer who values partnering with you to make sure you always have enough labels, regardless of season or demand fluctuations.
At Resource Label Group, our labeling capabilities include premium shrink sleeves for bottles — and much, much more. With a proven record of providing high-quality, custom labels for a variety of industries, we can tackle any labeling challenge for any brand throughout North America.
To learn more about customizing shrink sleeves, talk to our team of label experts. We’ll listen to your challenges and offer you advice on how to align your label design with your brand vision. Request an obligation-free consultation today.
Find the best solution that makes the most sense for your brand.