Aside from a great labeling machine, that is.
What makes a beer connoisseur reach for a craft beer at their local shop? It’s possible they are checking Ratebeer or Beer Advocate to see what rating it carries, but they probably won’t get to that point unless the label gets their attention first. Luminer surveyed 400 people between the age of 18 and 65, finding that 53% of them admitted that a bright, attractive label is what convinces them to reach for a product at the store. So, as much as beer lovers care about ratings, mouthfeel, IBU’s, ABV, gravity, and other factors, the beer’s appearance is what clinches the sale!
The question then becomes, how do craft brewers make winning beer bottle labels? There’s no single answer. Rather, coming up with the perfect label is like assembling a winning basketball team. There may be a star player everyone focuses on, but without the rest of the team backing them up, they’ll get crushed on the court. The lesson is that your brewery will have to pay attention to every detail of your beer bottle labels to win customers! Let’s talk about what it takes to make those beer bottle labels attractive.
Yes, before you consider graphics, branding, or even labeling equipment, you have to decide what type of labels you’ll use. Whether you’re using cans, bottles, or both will determine what kinds of labels you can use. Some labels can be used on either bottles or cans, while others will have to be designed around the exact container you use.
Wrap Around Labels
Depending on the style of bottles you use, they may be the same diameter as a standard 12oz can, which means you may be able to use the same label for both containers. Wrap around labels are meant for cylinder shapes, so if you have unusually shaped containers, other label types will work better for you.
These labels offer plenty of space for you to include nutrition information and branding, but leave some of the container bare. This isn’t necessarily a problem, and if you integrate some clear areas on your labels, then the color or material of your bottles/cans can show through and be part of the design.
These labels don’t go the whole way around the container, which is why they are rarely if ever used on cans. They use less material than wraparound labels, so what you lose in surface area for graphics and information, you gain by being less wasteful. You can also get more creative with label shapes with front/back labels. You may want beer bottle labels that are square or rectangular, perhaps ovular, or even some special shape to match a logo or design idea.
Neck labels are rarely featured on their own and are most commonly used in conjunction with wrap around or front/back labels. If you want your beer bottle labels to take on an antiquated charm, evoking vintage styles of beers from, say, England or Germany, these labels add a little class to the bottle. Of course, neck bands won’t work on cans!
Within the category of neck band labels are wrap around or one side only. Because these labels have to follow a neck taper, generally neck bands don’t go the whole way around and meet up again, rather they use adhesive to keep themselves planted on the bottle’s neck.
If you want to cover the entire container with graphics, shrink sleeve beer bottle labels are for you! They use no adhesive, rather a loose sleeve is placed over a bottle or can and heat shrinks the label to make a permanent bond. Moisture, which can ruin adhesive labels, is not a concern for shrink sleeves. If you need to reuse containers for any reason, they are also easy to cut off and recycle.
Once you know what type of beer bottle label you want to use, you need to determine what material you’d like. You’ll also need to think about whether you want matte or glossy finishes depending on your brand identity.
For the cheapest option, go for paper. However, it’s also the least durable. There are special varnishes and finishes that can extend their lifespan, but ultimately, a few hours in a cooler will reduce them to a soggy mess. Paper does have a unique texture, however, and can give a feeling of age or stateliness, which makes it a choice for some brewers despite its downsides.
Plastic films are hardier than paper. And, if you’re using wrap around or front/back labels, a film with a good adhesive will last a reasonably long time before condensation begins to take effect.
If you want your container to feature in the design, you can opt for a clear film. For a spare, modern look, some breweries will use clear film with very few graphics or lettering. And in case you’re wondering, shrink sleeves can be either opaque or clear.
For a futuristic, shiny look, you can opt for a metal-like surface finish for your beer bottle labels. Perhaps you want to match the aluminum of your cans or just want a label that shines in the light to grab attention!
Now we’re to the part of your label that requires the most effort. Your label graphics have several jobs to do in the battle for sales:
1. Grab the customer’s attention.
When they see your beers sitting on the shelf next to beers from other breweries, do they stand out or blend in?
2. Communicate the nature of the beer.
Your color choices, illustrations, the name of the beer, and label type all come together to give the customer an idea of what your beer will taste like. Greens and yellows for hoppy, browns and blacks for malty, etc. Your label should feel the way the beer tastes.
3. Support your brand.
No matter how cool a label is, if it clashes with your branding, it’s not doing its job. Take a look at labels from major players like Dogfish Head, Flying Dog, Treehouse, Cigar City, and others. Each label conveys the nature of the beer and fits with the overall brand identity.
4. Satisfy the law.
Your label must be cool, but must also be legal. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) have strict rules about what information can and can’t be on beer bottle labels. Everything from nutrition information to font size must conform to the rules!
Pack Leader USA Labeling Equipment
The final piece of the puzzle is your labeling equipment. Labels must be applied quickly but perfectly. Even pressure, consistent placement, and high speeds are what Pack Leader USA labelers do best! Since choosing labeling equipment can be tough given all your options, download The Craft Brewers Guide to Evaluating Labeling Equipment to make your decision easier. Pack Leader USA is ready to partner with you on your amazing labels!
- Pack Leader USA Labeling Machines for Craft Brewers
- How to Design a Beer Label: The Ultimate Guide for Craft Brewers
- The Craft Brewer’s Guide to Beer Labels, From Concept to Final Product
- Beer Guide: What's on the Outside Counts