In recent years, shrink sleeve labels have garnered attention for their efficiency and durability. They offer companies a simple, effective way to promote their brand by wrapping their logo and company information around an entire product container. But the use of stretch labels is growing rapidly, and was the focus of this year’s Sleeve Label Conference two weeks ago.
At the conference, experts explained why stretch labels are considered more convenient than heat shrink labels. They have about 20% to 45% more elasticity and snap-back, and manufacturers are saying stretch labels are ideal with containers that have contours, as the sleeve will change its shape to match the curves. Shrink labels offer a similar option, but are not as easy to wrap around a container.
Stretch sleeves have been popular in the European market, but are now gaining repute in the North American market. One packaging representative explained that he does not expect that stretch sleeves will overtake the shrink sleeve market, but that stretch sleeves will offer manufacturers an alternative. He added that shrink sleeves have traditionally been used for larger, more oddly shaped, industrial containers, and did not always translate well to contoured bottles because their elasticity is no more than 5% to 10%.
One of the other reported advantages of stretch sleeves is that they are more cost effective, and manufacturers will likely spend 35% of the cost of shrink sleeves to produce them. Because these labels are designed to stretch over a bottle, less plastic is required during production, leading to less wastage. Energy efficiency is also a plus for stretch sleeve manufacturers, as they do not need to use heat, which reduces the carbon footprint. As a result, stretch sleeves labels are being considered more sustainable than heat shrink labels.
In addition, stretch labels are easier to recycle. Shrink labels have been more difficult to remove because of the adhesive that holds the label to the bottle. A stretch label can be easily removed by simply tugging on a corner of the plastic, as there is no adhesive used to bind the label to the container.
But stretch labels can also jeopardize the quality of printed images. When the material is stretched around a bottle, the letters and pictures will stretch as well. Manufacturers are also working on trying protect these labels from scuffing using varnish.
As the push for greener processes and more recycling continues to rise, stretch labels may become more important. For now, shrink labels still make up the majority of adhesive label manufacturing.