When people are looking to stand out from the crowd, theymight opt for an edgy haircut, trendy outfit or questionable acquaintances. For beverages, label manufacturers say shrink and stretch sleeves provide that eye-catching all-over solution to seize consumer attention at retail.

Labels play an important role in consumer choice, says Matt Dudas, market development manager for Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, Tenn.

“No other label format allows for the potential emotional connection with consumers,” Dudas says.

A product with a 360-degree wrap has the opportunity to break through consumer patterns and influence a consumer toward an unintended purchase, he says.

“The label can interrupt the thought of the consumer, which is especially valuable when you’re launching a new product,” Dudas says. “The label is bringing value to the table. Oftentimes companies want to spend $1 million on an ad campaign. Why not invest in 10 million shrink sleeve labeled bottles and see what return you get for that investment?”

In addition to emotional appeal, innovations in the category have made shrink labels more environmentally friendly, versatile attention grabbers and, in some cases, a cost-effective option.

Environmental appeal
While the bottle itself is frequently the focus of sustainable efforts, labels also have advanced their technology to be more environmentally friendly. Beverage companies have been moving away from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) labels and into polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG)-based materials, oriented polystyrene (OPS) or polylactide (PLA) labels made from a renewable resource, says Gwen Chapdelaine, marketing director for Fort Dearborn, Elk Grove Village, Ill.

“With PETG, we are moving more customers to lower gauge products,” she says. “Our OPS film offering has a 30 percent yield savings vs. PVC or PETG. And our high-yield PETG film offers excellent opacity and light blocking capabilities as well as a higher yield advantage. Earthfirst PLA is slowly making some strides in the market, mostly in tamper evident bands.”

In addition to tamper evident bands, label manufacturers also have incorporated the seals into all-over shrink sleeve labels. Printpack Inc., Farmingdale, N.Y., has an option featuring perforation at the cap that allows the consumer to remove the tamper-evident band while the label remains on the container, says Barbara Drillings, marketing communications manager at Printpack.

The company also has seen a rise in popularity of its labels made from Earthfirst PLA, she says.

“Sustainable packaging solutions are more and more popular,” Drillings says. “Printpack offers eco-friendly bio-films such as Earthfirst PLA and recycled PLA, both made from plants, a renewable resource. The future will probably bring about newer bio-based films to challenge PLA and this will make for a dynamic market.”

Special effects
As shrink and stretch labels have grown in popularity, companies have created new inks and effects to enhance product appeal.

“Shrink sleeves provide 360-degrees of real estate and provide brand owners with a savvy material that runs a wide gamut of shapes and molds of plastic, but one of the things they initially failed with was to provide multi-dimensional experiential labels to provide an emotional connection to consumers,” says John McDowell, president of McDowell Label.

The Plano, Texas-based company recently introduced a tactile sensory label that creates doming effects for a metallized look, McDowell says. The company also offers glowing as well as metallic inks.

Opaque sleeves also are catching on for beverages, especially for products that might have light-sensitivity issues. Eastman created Embrace High Yield, which is an opaque micro-voided film with light blocking properties, a matte look and softer touch. The micro-voiding allows for 30 percent more labels per pound of film, Dudas says.

Similarly, Printpack’s latest addition Neo Affinia PETG has a UV light barrier, matte finish and velvet touch, Drillings says.

“We expect this to be a popular film for beverage manufacturers who have light sensitive products that need extended shelf life,” she says. “This film also has excellent shrink characteristics and has sustainability features as well.”

Neo Affinia’s sustainability features, including its light barrier properties, enable bottlers to replace multilayer and barrier products. Its lower gauge of film saves on material weight, which lowers product and transportation costs, Drilling says.

McDowell Label also offers a high-yield soft touch label with a natural opaque barrier. In addition, Fort Dearborn has a white high-yield PETG shrink film with opacity and light blocking capabilities, Chapdelaine says.

“Along with offering options to support our customers’ sustainability efforts, our latest advancements for shrink sleeve labels are targeted at shelf-impact and functionality,” Chapdelaine says. “For shelf impact, we offer fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark and thermochromatic inks and various coatings including acid etch, frosted, pearlescent, holographic and matte.”

Fort Dearborn also can enhance the functionality of labels with scratch and sniff inks as well as soft touch coatings, Chapdelaine says.

Metallic inks also are increasing in popularity. Overnight Labels offers water-based inks, which are environmentally friendly, says Don Earl, president of the Deer Park, N.Y.-based company. In addition, Printpack offers metallic inks. Vibrant colors are a priority at Printpack as the company also offers a proprietary color separation method known as Colorpack, which is designed to reduce variability in the process and can be used with gravure and flexo printing, Drillings says.

Holding down costs
As companies and consumers alike look to save money, label manufacturers have come to market with myriad solutions. Eastman Chemical Co. introduced Embrace Roll Applied labels, which do not require a special machine to apply, Dudas says.

For companies that might be new to the market, Overnight Labels says its niche is offering low set up costs and no minimum order requirements with a lead time under three weeks, Earl says, “If you’re on the fence about whether you want to get into shrinks or not, you don’t have to break the bank.”

Hammer Packaging, Rochester, N.Y., also has limited its upfront costs with the introduction of variable sleeve offset press (VSOP) printing. The technology makes it more affordable for companies to launch a line of multiple flavors and packaging options, says Lou Iovoli, vice president of sales and marketing. VSOP printing allows customers to make label changes without high costs or holding up the press run, he explains.

“Let’s say a customer is sitting in our facility watching the first run of an item,” Iovoli says. “They take a look at it and say it’s not working, they don’t like the red. We can stop the press, go into the prep room, change the red and print a new plate in three minutes. So without any waiting we’ve made the changes — that’s not like the offset plate system.”

The company also offers both white and clear films, which provide UV protection as well as aesthetic appeal, he says. BI