There were roughly 20,000 new food and beverage introductions last year, according to figures from ProductScan. Add health and beauty, household, miscellaneous and pet products to that list, and the figure jumps to more than 33,000.
With so many new products competing for a spot in the consumer’s shopping cart, marketers are turning to innovative container shapes and high impact graphics to make the sale. And shrink sleeve labels, which can conform to virtually any shape and offer 360 degrees of billboard space, are an effective means of delivering critical shelf pop.
Simply defined, a shrink sleeve label is a film label printed on a plastic sheet or tube, which shrinks to the contour of the container when heat is applied. The use of shrink labels was born of the Tylenol scare of the 1980s (shrink bands were used to lend tamper evidence to the plastic pill bottles). But it wasn’t until the introduction of the Dean’s Chug milk bottle that marketers began to leverage the power of the shrink label as a marketing tool.
“Using a shrink label means you get a lot more billboard space for your graphics,” says Terry Copenhaver, marketing manager of shrink sleeve labels at Alcoa Flexible Packaging. “With a film label as opposed to a paper label, you can use bolder colors, and the high gloss on top of that really makes these packages pop.”
Shrink labels have become commonplace in the dairy case and can be seen in packaging for products ranging from white and flavored milks and drinkable yogurts to flavored coffee creamers.
In fact, Eastman Chemical recently launched www.FashionforMilk.com, an Internet “microsite” designed to educate brand owners thinking of using shrink sleeves.
“Plastic containers and cartons may have replaced glass bottles, but the idea of milk as a homogenous, everyday staple is carried on through emotionless labels and pale printing,” says Randy Scott, global market development manager of film for Eastman. “Shrink films can help redefine brands, bringing them luster, strength, poise and impact.”
Beyond dairy, opportunities for shrink labels exist in a wide variety of markets, including juices, bottled waters, pharmaceuticals, automotive supplies, pet foods and lawn and garden products.
The cat’s meow
Nestle’s Purina brand has been an early adopter of the shrink sleeve label in the pet food aisle. When updating the packaging for Purina PetCare’s Whisker Lickin’s packaging, Nestle chose a contoured, easy-to-hold HDPE container and a full-body, form-fitting shrink sleeve from Alcoa.
Building on the success of the Whisker Lickin’s package, Purina recently added a contoured container with Alcoa shrink sleeve label to the packaging lineup for its Fancy Feast Gourmet Gold line of dry cat food. Available in 7-oz and 1-lb sizes (with a 3-lb package in the works), the Gourmet Gold package utilizes metallic inks on the full-body label to deliver premium wraparound graphics that effectively communicate the brand’s “cuisine” messaging.
Rely on the experts
Because these labels literally shrink to fit the contours of the container they’re applied to, special care must be taken during the design process.
“You’ll want to keep critical items, such as UPC codes, logos or the face of a character in areas of less distortion,” says Gary Gates, CEO of The Garron Group.
Gates offers one final word of advice when tackling a shrink sleeve project: this type of work is more complex than designing a traditional label. The process is as much art as it is science—so be sure to rely on experts from the creative, pre-production and manufacturing disciplines who have had success in working with this type of packaging. BP
The author, Jennifer Acevedo, is the Editor-in-Chief of BRANDPackaging.
Shrink Sleeve Lends Shelf Presence to Waterproof Package
If your garage is littered with wet, crumpled packages of garden care products, help is on the way. The Scotts Company recently addressed this consumer headache with the launch of its well-known Miracle-Gro water soluble plant food in a waterproof package. The rigid plastic container features a shrink sleeve label for maximum shelf presence.
“The desire was to have a package that benefits consumers by standing up to conditions in the garden as well as with retailers who can drive impulse sales by merchandising the product outside with live plants and flowers,” says Julie Poast of Scotts Marketing. “For maximum shelf impact and outdoor durability, we utilized a shrink wrap label, as its bright, glossy finish helps the package stand out at retail and supports the brand’s premium image.”
The new package, which is part of a larger project centered around waterproof packaging for Scotts, is incorporated into both All Purpose and Bloom Booster Miracle-Gro varieties. The shrink sleeve label provides ample real estate for product information and directions as well as promotional opportunities for other Scotts garden products. The label is rotogravure printed on PVC material in eight colors by Fort Dearborn Company.
There is a broad range of films available for, and commonly used in, shrink sleeve applications.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
Pro: Still the dominant film used for shrink sleeves, PVC is relatively inexpensive compared to other films. Maximum shrink is about 65%, which is sufficient for use with many shaped or contoured containers.
Con: PVC contaminates the recycling stream if used on recycled containers.
PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol)
Pro: Shrinks up to 80%, which is required for containers with a significant contour.
Con: Most expensive of the films used for shrink sleeves, but it is often selected because of environmental friendliness.
OPS (oriented polystyrene)
Pro: Widely used in Japan because of its “green” properties, OPS is also poised for growth in the United States. Shrinks up to 80% (as does PETG), but has a more controlled shrink curve. Also boasts high clarity and gloss.
Source: Alcoa Flexible Packaging
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