Labels can be made from plastic, paper or vinyl. They can be transparent or opaque. They can be monochrome or multicoloured. How do you know which label is right for you and your product?
Choosing The Right Material
Consider the complete lifecycle of the label. What are all the environments that it will have to go through? What temperature and moisture will the label experience?
Paper labels are the least expensive and the most basic type of labels. They are utilised in clean, warm and dry environments. As with any paper material, these are not tear-resistant, water-resistant, or oil-resistant, which can lead to issues if your product is exposed to rough handling or wet environmental conditions. The general purpose of paper labels is to adhere to surfaces like cardboard, plastic, and metal.
A laminated label is made of vinyl and is recommended for cold, refrigerated or frozen environments. They are widely used for meat and dairy products as they go through constant refrigeration. These are also resistant to oil and are often used in marinated meat products.
Wine bottles are often placed in ice buckets for extended periods of time and hence require special labels. These labels use strong adhesives with high water resistance, allowing them to be submerged in an ice bucket without turning to mush. The label has a minimum labelling temperature of around 0o Celcius.
A new and upcoming category of label materials is kraft labels. They are made from 100% recycled paper and are a great choice if you are an eco-conscious brand. They have permanent adhesives, ideal for general everyday uses. However, these labels are not water or oil-resistant. Hence they are mainly used to give a more rustic or natural look to air-tight containers, jars, for example.
Transparent vs Solid Coloured Labels
Of course, it is also essential for the label to represent your company brand and match the look of your product. Choosing the right label colour can help with that.
The first and foremost requirement is for your label to be easily readable and visible. It’s hard to read a label that blends with your container’s colour. Choose a label colour that contrasts the container colour.
Your label can also be used to add an extra feeling of luxury to your product. This is a common practice when it comes to expensive items, like wine bottles or chocolate jars. Companies often use cream paper labels that have a handmade, textured feel and high resistance to damage caused by moisture for such items.
However, the perfect choice for other translucent or transparent containers would be clear labels.
These labels blend in with the actual packaging, giving a modern look. Transparent labels can also increase confidence as consumers can see everything inside the package. This creates a feeling of trust in their mind, even if they don’t realise it.
Moreover, these labels are usually vinyl in material and hence have excellent water-resistant properties.
How Does The Container You Use Affect Your Label Choice?
Not all labels can easily conform to any shape. Hence the next thing to consider before choosing a label is the shape of your product or its container.
Weirdly shaped containers can strain the label material, in which case you’ll have to choose something that can bear that strain. For instance, film or vinyl labels are more flexible than paper and are recommended for oddly shaped containers.
Another example of this is using metal labels on crates. Crates are washed regularly, usually whenever they return to the warehouse after a delivery. Most of these crates are cleaned in crate washers where the crates are subjected to extremely high pressures of water and air. Neither paper nor vinyl labels can withstand these conditions. Metal labels, on the other hand, can withstand extremely harsh conditions and have a life of about 15-20 years.
These metal labels have extremely strong and high-quality adhesives, like 3M. But sometimes, even that is not enough to keep the label in place. In this situation, the metal label is riveted onto the crate. However, this process can prove to be tedious and time-consuming as grocery companies can have up to 50,000 crates in just one warehouse.
Making Sure You Have The Right Adhesives
Another example of product-specific label adhesives are food grade adhesives. Any adhesive that is used in manufacturing, packing or transportation of the food product must be a food-grade adhesive. These adhesives can be direct or indirect. The glue on labels that have been directly placed on fruits or vegetables are called direct adhesives, while the adhesives used during manufacturing are indirect.
Some food-grade adhesives are hot melt, hide glue, liquid-based glue, epoxies, and silicone adhesives. There are additional food-safe specifications for colouring pigments and other additives.
A few years back, Foodwatch, a consumer organisation, identified traces of petroleum in a German chocolate bar due to improper labelling. Cases like this can cause extreme loss of trust among consumers leading to huge monetary losses. Another case like this took place in 2010, where highly toxic labels were found in the glue of food packaging labels at a supermarket. These had migrated into the package posing severe health risks, including organ failure and infertility. Hence, it is extremely important to use the right kind of adhesive when it comes to food products.
However, when it comes to non-food items, EVA hot melt adhesives are recommended. EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate) is a copolymer adhesive that can adhere to a variety of materials. They don’t use water or solvents to acquire their adhesive properties, allowing them to set quickly and have a long shelf life. They adhere to the widest range of substrates and function in one of the widest temperature ranges making them extremely famous.
So to summarise, when choosing a label, the first and foremost thing to consider are its uses.
- The environment your label will have to survive or what material to choose.
- The look you’re going for or coloured vs transparent labels.
- The make and material of the product or container you’ll be placing your label on or what adhesive to choose.