Cast Your Vote: Shrink Sleeve Labeling Material

by Kimberly Young

Election day is just around the corner, and while many of us are doing what we can to make a well-informed decision for our country (WOAH…that’s deep), others ALSO have to decide on the best shrink sleeve labeling material to use for our product portfolio.  Lucky for you, we’ve asked the tough questions to our shrink “candidates” and started a friendly debate to share thoughts, insights, and trends to educate us about the various shrink materials available out in the marketplace.  Whether you have been using shrink sleeves for years, or are weighing your options and casting your vote, there is some great information below!

Without further ado, let’s meet our candidates:

Each of our candidates has a different mix of offerings within their product portfolios, so it’ll be fun to hear each side of the podium.  When getting into the shrink sleeve market, the first step is educating yourself and considering all of the material options available out in the marketplace.  So as a simple first step, are there distinguishing application uses for the various material offerings?

Jeff Cole from KP touched on the fact that the markets that we see shrink sleeves most often, is within the beverage market, “including soft drinks, fruit juices, dairy, water, and the whole assortment of alcoholic beverage types,” while also worth mentioning,  “successful applications within the candy and confectionery markets, household products, HBA and personal care product markets.”

One of the materials most often used within Inland facilities is PETG (Polyethylene terephthalate glycol) shrink sleeves, which Klockner and Bonset America Corporation both offer.  According to Randall Welborn from Bonset, “our PETG material has played an integral role in the growth of the specialty drinks market (coffees, craft beer, craft wine, etc.) in recent years.”  However, a second contender is PVC material which is also commonly used for beverage containers, but stands out against the rest with its utilization for tamper-evident bands and nutraceutical containers.”

On the flip side, we also bring to the table, Cecelia Glackin-Hunt with PSI, whose product offerings vary slightly from our other two candidates.  PSI has both OPS and PLA shrink sleeve decoration film offerings.  According to Glackin-Hunt, “Applications for both materials include any container type and container shapes including complex contours and prefill products.  OPS excels with unique shaped containers. It is soft and conforms wells to containers with special shapes. EarthFirst® PLA film is a more sustainable option. It’s plant-based, compostable, and helps companies lower their carbon footprint.”  We will dig more into the sustainable offerings later because we know how important that is for many of you.

So, we now know when each of the materials is most commonly used, but what is the benefit of each of them?

The biggest advantages of using shrink sleeves typically point back to two factors, 1) the ability to use 360-degree real estate on any container and  2) being able to use containers that are unique in shape and style.  This is where shrink sleeve labeling can come in clutch, and Cole shares how Klockner’s PETG and PVC materials, “have a medium to extremely high shrink rate property which means containers with high geometry are not a problem.  They will both work very well in steam, hot air, or infrared shrink tunnel systems.  In terms of print capabilities, both materials have excellent print process capabilities.”  Cole doesn’t want to leave out that their eklipse®, PETg shrink labels can also serve as a light inhibitor which increases the shelf life of certain light-sensitive products such as dairy beverages.”

As we previously mentioned, sleeves do have the advantage over other labels types in being able to provide coverage on the unique bottles, and Welborn shares that overall, “PVC is low cost compared to PETG and works well for less intricate container shapes that do not require much shrink.”

As we discussed further with Glackin-Hunt to learn where OPS plays in the marketplace she shared that “OPS serves as a great graphics base. High-impact graphics and consumer communication have a great foundation.” OPS benefits do not end there, Cecelia continues “OPS is ideal for squeezable containers because it is considered quieter than other shrink sleeve films. As well, it excels when processing because of its controlled shrink rate.”

Now, we aren’t kidding ourselves, you all want to know “how much does it cost?”  We’d like to say that cost doesn’t play a part and worry about what would work best, but we are realists, and honestly, this is where all three candidates could agree… the biggest drivers for cost are the resin markets as the price of the base polymer is the driving force when considering costs of shrink sleeve labeling materials.  With that being said, the exception to the rule is the specialized PLA film “EarthFirst®.  Sustainable label decoration is a high consideration amongst brand owners, and the cost is directly connected to PLA biopolymer pricing. Greater adoption will lead to scale economies is a point Glackin-Hunt felt was worth mentioning.

So, are you ready to cast your vote? I hope not, because we have more to share!  I picked the brains of our candidates to learn more about why brands are moving to shrink, asking what trends they are seeing out in the marketplace, and what new and innovative shrink offerings are coming down the pipeline!  So stay tuned, we’ll be back with another blog post.  If you can’t wait any longer and want to learn more, contact us today!