A Comparison Between Labels and Shrink Sleeves

product label

With tons of products on display in stores, packaging plays an important role in the identification of these items. Product labels are crucial in packaging because it helps provide information about a product to the customer, such as its nutrients, expiration date, instruction, and disposal. 

Product labels are made in different types and materials. Generally, two popular options are available: shrink sleeves and adhesive labels. So, what is the difference between shrink sleeves and labels? Which is better? Read on to find out more.

What are Shrink Sleeves?

Shrink sleeves offer a full-color covering made from polymer films. You can use a digital press to print them and include a “sleeve” made of seamed openings on the top and bottom that shrinks around the contours of the container when heated, giving it 360-degree coverage. 

These types of packaging are well-suited for items prone to moisture and friction, and it’s why you’ll often find shrink sleeves in food, beverage, pharmaceutical, automotive, home care, pet care, and skincare products.

Pros of Using Shrink Sleeves

Shrink sleeves provide your products and brand with various benefits that may help you stand out from the competitive arena of store shelves. Below are just a few of the advantages of shrink sleeves.

  1. They’re highly durable

These product labels are made of polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG), a material made to resist intense temperatures. That’s why shrink sleeves are often used in beverages and haircare products.  

  1. They have a flexible design

Shrink sleeves bundle multiple items of different shapes and cover them with a full-coverage design. Their versatility allows you to customize the product labels and package them as a set. 

Shrink sleeves also have a low-profile edge that gives it a sleek look. This can be a good solution for those that want the look of screen printing but prefer the flexible appeal of shrink wraps.

Furthermore, if you want, you can implement varnishes, glosses, and foils to your shrink-sleeve label design. Although it’s more costly, there are also numerous possibilities for design features and extras to make the product stand out.

  1. They can be a sustainable option 

A study shows that polyethylene terephthalate waste from shrink sleeves can be recycled with simple chemicals. This product label option won’t harm the environment as much as traditional product labels.

While shrink sleeves are viable alternatives for product labels, learning more about traditional labels, such as adhesive labels, is worthwhile.

What are Adhesive Labels?

Traditional labeling uses adhesive labels, also called pressure-sensitive or PS labels. They require pressure to get them to stick to containers and not extend entirely around the product. Adhesive labels comprise four layers: the release liner, adhesive, face stock, and topcoat. It usually measures less than half of the container’s circumference or full size.

Pros of Using Adhesive Labels

There’s a reason why traditional product labels, such as adhesive labels, are so popular among product manufacturers. Below are a few advantages that adhesive labels can offer you.

  1. They’re convenient to apply

Adhesive labels are convenient to apply since you can attach them manually, and it also means there is no need for expensive machinery to stick the labels on. Adhesive labels do not require heat, solvent, or complex tools to stick to surfaces. You can peel them right off the backing liner and apply them onto another container with a bit of pressure.

  1. They’re easy to design

It’s easy to design and stylize adhesive labels to make them more attractive. You can easily implement matte and glossy varnishes, foils, metallic inks, and coatings in the labeling process. You can mix them with special die-cutting and substrates for a more eye-catching output.

Adhesive labels also allow back printing. You can print other designs on the reverse of product labels to show through the packaging if you want to place additional product information.

  1. They’re available for mass production

Labeling machines for adhesive labels are made available for mass production, making them easy and convenient to use. The only downtime you will experience with these machines is switching rolls.

Manufacturers used adhesive labels with almost any type and size of containers of various products like specialty foods and beverages, household goods, and health and beauty items for a long time before shrink sleeves became popular. 

How Do Adhesive Labels and Shrink Sleeves Compare?

Read how adhesive labels and shrink sleeves compare regarding the critical factors of product labels.

  • Design 

You can customize adhesive labels for different packaging types, but they can also be limited in coverage since it only sticks on flat or curved surfaces. On the other hand, shrink sleeves provide 360-degree coverage, which you can use for even irregularly-shaped containers. They also allow room for striking designs and store more product information.

  • Durability

Adhesive labels adhere better to flat, smooth, and clean surfaces. Their adhesives are more durable than removable ones. However, they still cannot match the durability and adherence of shrink sleeves. Shrink sleeves are waterproof and can often withstand different temperature changes.

  • Production time

No complicated processes are involved with adhesive labels since they do not require heat, water, or solvent to stick. But you’ll need to adjust shrink sleeves thoroughly to accommodate distortions on the container. They also take longer to apply than adhesive labels because they require specialized machinery.

  • Cost-effectiveness

Generally, shrink sleeves are more expensive than adhesive labels, and it can be more costly if the shrinking is done by hand since it is labor-intensive. But shrink sleeves also offer 150% more “labeling real estate” than adhesive labels companies use to connect with customers.

  • Impact on sales

Most brands still use shrink sleeves because this product label can make the item stand out among other brands. Consumers can respond more favorably to shrink sleeves on elaborate bottles instead of those with plain labels in different categories, including attention, uniqueness, package impact, empathy, and appeal.

Adhesive Labels vs. Shrink Sleeves: Which Should You Use? 

While adhesive labels and shrink sleeves are excellent choices for product labels, their difference will tell you which to use for packaging design. Shrinks sleeves are ideal for products that require multiple versions or prototypes, and adhesive labels are best suited on goods that need small tags. 

Keep in mind what you need, your budget, and your business requirements to choose the right product label.

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