What You Need to Know About Shrink Sleeve Labels


Shrink sleeves provide 150% more labeling real-estate for only a 25% price increase vs. traditional labels.

If you're planning to launch a new product with a splash, or just want to breathe new life into an existing product, consider wrapping your head around shrink sleeve labels. While we have nothing against regular wrap-around and front/back labelers (here at Pack Leader USA, we sell plenty of 'em), increasingly our customers who sell products in cans and bottles see the value in shrink-sleeve labeling and are moving in that direction.

Shrink-sleeve labels introduce versatility and flexibility into your labeling, allowing you to have a variety of shrink-sleeve labels digitally printed in smaller quantities while maintaining a stock of unlabeled cans, jars, or bottles. They can also give a boost to brand awareness and increase sales since their eye-catching appearance can lead shoppers to pick your product from the shelf.

Watch SL-10 & SL-77 Shrink Sleeve Labeler Instructional Videos

What is a shrink sleeve?

A shrink sleeve is a pre-printed tube of thermoplastic material that is placed around your container and conforms to its shape when passed through a heating chamber, also called a shrink tunnel. Shrink sleeves applied to the neck and cap to form a tamper-evident seal date back to the 1960s, but by the 1990s, full-length shrink sleeve labels had made their debut. In this post, we'll be talking about those full-length sleeves that provide maximum space for eye-catching graphic design and information to help sell your product.

Bottles, cans, and jars covered with shrink sleeve labels not only look great but are reinforced by this second skin, and can be lighter in weight than containers designed for conventional labels. They're also completely waterproof and can be applied to unusual shapes that can't take a standard flat label.

Shrink sleeve materials are improving, too, with newer plastics allowing more than 75% shrinkage to cover the most extreme package shapes. And significant advances have been made in printing technology, which may be done on digital or flexographic presses. Text and graphics are printed on the inside of the sleeve, and allowances are made for distortion so that everything comes out looking right once the label is shrunk into place. 

What products are best for shrink sleeve labels?

Because shrink sleeve labels are waterproof, the beverage industry favors them for their packaging. Other industries using shrink sleeve labels include producers of nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals, wine, spirits, and beer, household products, and industrial products.

Content_ShrinkSleeveClearLablesThe fact that a shrink sleeve label can also offer a tamper-evident seal makes them popular on food and beverage containers, and in pharmaceuticals. What makes them great for household cleaning products such as detergents and cleaning agents is their durability and ability to withstand moisture. And common to all product types is the shelf appeal helps sell the product. No label type can compete with shrink sleeves when it comes to grabbing the consumer's eye.

Can shrink sleeve labels reduce costs?

According to Resource Label Group, a label company, shrink sleeves provide a 150% increase in label area for a 25% price increase over traditional pressure-sensitive labels. So it's reasonable to expect at least part of the cost of investing in shrink sleeves to be offset by increased sales.


Apart from that, there are plenty of potential cost savings in shrink sleeve labels:

  • If tamper-evident seals are needed, shrink sleeve labels can consolidate sealing and labeling into one simple process.
  • Batches of various products can be run with different shrink-sleeve labels applied to the same generic container.
  • Speed of production increases with shrink sleeve labels because applying labels with proper alignment is a simpler process.
  • Switching between product types can be done swiftly with little setup time, allowing more finished products per hour.
  • Labels are removable since no adhesive is used, making it possible to reuse containers.
  • Some shrink films are environmentally friendly and can be recycled.
  • Using shrink-sleeve labels reduces the need for colorant and UV inhibitors in closures and bottles.

What are some more shrink sleeve benefits?

Typically, you apply pressure-sensitive labels to the front and back of a container, which in many cases can add up to the same cost as a shrink-sleeve label. For roughly the same money, you get a great deal more area for your brand message, as well as other packaging benefits already mentioned. For example, shrink-sleeve labels are characteristically very tough and scuff-resistant because they are printed on the inside.

Then there is the wow factor. A much-cited 2011 study of packaging by AC Nielsen for the Eastman Chemical Company showed that shrink sleeve labels combined with highly contoured bottles create a strong emotional connection with consumers that enhances sales and brand loyalty. Women and early adopters were up to three times more likely to purchase beverage products so packaged.

Add the fact that a shrink sleeve contributes to the strength and rigidity of the packaging system, so that wall thickness is reduced, making containers up to 42% lighter — a compelling case for switching to shrink sleeve labels emerges.

Where can you find a right-fit shrink sleeve label machine?

At Pack Leader USA, of course! Our team of professionals is ready to help you pick the right labeler for your line.

Pack Leader USA provides a line of shrink sleeve label machines consisting of the following:

You can customize your shrink-sleeve labeler with cutters and different-sized mandrels to precisely fit the label to your containers, printers, and other options. 

To learn more, visit our resources page where you'll find links to spec sheets and instructional videos for the SL-10 and SL-77 Shrink Sleeve Labelers.