Ruined labels waste money, create production backlogs, and impact time to market.
We've all experienced a wet beer bottle label: the paper label wrinkles, distorts, and, if touched, easily rubs off, becoming messy paper pulp. That label, which looked sharp initially, now appears sloppy and sad.
This is even worse when it happens in your production line before the beer even makes it into the consumer's hands. Without preventative measures, condensation can occur during the packaging process, which ruins beer labels, wastes money, creates a production backlog, and prolongs time to market.
But don't worry. There are ways to fix this problem.
Temperature & Environment
Humidity and moisture are among the top causes of label adhesion problems. Moisture can react with the adhesives in the label, keeping it from sticking properly. Humidity can also cause problems with your labeling equipment, leading to jams and labels sticking to the roll instead of the bottles.
Temperature extremes can also cause faulty adhesion. If the conditions are too hot or too cold, metal parts will expand and contract, affecting tolerances. Extreme temperatures can also wreak havoc on adhesives, with cold temps causing labels to lose their flexibility and the adhesive not to stick, and heat causing labels to curl and the adhesive to become loose and tacky. And believe it or not, static electricity can cause issues with equipment tolerances, too.
For ideal labeling conditions, keep these tips in mind:
- Your line should be in an area that’s dry and room temperature or slightly cool.
- Store your labels in airtight bags.
- Remember that items stored on high shelves can be up to 30 degrees warmer than those on lower shelves.
- Before labeling, make sure that all materials have reached room temperature.
- Warm bottling can help solve some temperature differentials and may be a technique worth considering.
Compatible Labels & Containers
Mismatched bottles and labels can lead to poor application and peeling. No matter how good your labeler is, if the labels aren't compatible with your bottle, they'll never stick.
Regarding labels, when shopping for the right ones, make sure they'll work well on the bottles you've chosen. Good options include shrink sleeve labels and laminated/vinyl varieties.
Your bottles may also be a culprit. When choosing bottles, steer clear of weak or inconsistent glass bottles, leading to poor label application. If there are any gaps between the bottle and label, moisture can get in and ruin your label integrity.
Abrasion is also a concern. When your bottles are moving through your packaging line, make sure labels aren't snagging or scraping. An automated packaging line of mismatched equipment provides ample opportunity for problems. For instance, moisture can seep in once a label is torn, causing the label to peel.
If your brewery still relies on manual packaging line processes, even more occasions could lead to torn labels. As employees move bottles to six-pack carriers, labels can get snagged on edges. Carrying bottles by hand and packing them tightly on shelves will rub labels against each other, and possible contact with rough walls doesn't help either. Limit the number of hands that need to be on bottles at any given time to preserve packaging and label quality.
Water Resistant Labels
If you'd prefer, you can turn to labels that can withstand harsh conditions. Vinyl labels, for instance, are designed to repel moisture. Using a moisture repellent label material like vinyl in a wrap-around application doubles up your adhesion, guaranteeing longer-lasting labels.
You can also use shrink sleeve labels. Shrink sleeves are 100% moisture resistant because they don't rely on adhesives. Shrink sleeve labeling machines place loose sleeves over bottles and then run through a heat tunnel to shrink the labels. The result is a permanent label with expansive coverage.
If you’d prefer to stick to traditional paper labels, you can implement an air blower to prevent condensation. Installing an air blower before the labeling machine is a common solution. The blower does just what its name implies: it blows a focused stream of air onto the bottles to remove condensation before labeling.
If you go the blower route, make sure the blower has a small footprint, so it doesn’t eat up precious floor space. Also, it will need to have provisions for catching, storing, and draining the water it blows off your containers. No need to have that moisture reenter the atmosphere!
If you feel like your beer packaging line layout is working against you, you can do things to make it work better: change label types, buy higher-quality bottles, move to automated processes, invest in better equipment, etc. If you think your labeling could use an upgrade, consider an entry-level labeler designed for craft breweries. We offer high-grade equipment that maintains tight tolerances in all kinds of environmental conditions.