Imagine this scenario: a consumer is enjoying a summer picnic on a beautiful afternoon. It’s time for a beer. He walks over to the cooler, opens the top and peers at an assortment of ice-cold bottles. Only he doesn’t pick yours because the label fell off. It’s now a “mystery beer.”
As a craft brewer, your company lives and dies based on your brand image. Your beer must win the battle for attention against dozens of competing brews. Labels and packaging play a critical role in communicating your brand’s personality – and getting the consumer to make a purchase.
For your frothy concoctions to gain fans, your labels must hold up from bottling and cold storage to the “beer cave” at the store all the way to the cooler, baking on a sun-drenched patio. This isn’t a place to cut corners.
What can go wrong?
Labels on beer bottles can fall victim to several unpleasant fates:
- Moisture can cause them to flag or fall off completely.
- Moisture can also penetrate the pigments of the ink on the label, causing it to smudge, smear or fade.
- Abrasion is also a concern. As bottles move from the bottling line and packaging to the refrigerator to cooler, labels can become ripped, diminishing the bottle’s appeal.
To prevent these types of problems, keep these factors in mind when designing your labels and selecting a converter to print them:
Label substrate selection:
- Select label substrates and inks that are resistant to damage by moisture and abrasion.
- Avoid self-adhesive paper-based labels. Although they’re inexpensive, they don’t cope well with changing temperature and moist environments.
- Synthetic clear-on-clear labels provide improved durability under all conditions. They blend in nicely with the glass bottle but require an opaque white background to make the colors of the label pop.
- Durable label materials – such as vinyl or polyester films – also work well, especially if you need tear-resistant labels.
- Select a label stock that is wet strength, so it can hold up even when it’s submerged in a cooler full of melting ice. Welded papers are one type of wet strength material. They have a layer of plastic sandwiched between the adhesive and the label paper. It acts as a vapor barrier between the glass and the paper for improved durability in wet conditions.
The bottling environment
- Make sure your printer talks to the bottling line manager to coordinate guidelines and specifications for label application. This will save you many hours of potential headaches later.
- Always apply your labels in a dry, room-temperature environment. Cold bottling can cause problems with the label adhesive, which may not set up properly.
- Clean, dry bottles are a must to ensure proper label adhesion. For best results, the containers, labels and ingredients should be brought to approximately the same temperature before label application.
- The label material and adhesive need to be carefully selected so it can be accurately and consistently applied on a high-speed bottling line. A label that chews up extra time on the bottling line can be quite costly to your bottom line.
- Bottles are jostled vigorously on the bottling line, especially when they bunch up on conveyor belts prior to packaging. Labels and the adhesives used to affix them to the bottles must be able to withstand this pressure and friction.
- To avoid peeling, allow enough time for the label adhesive to properly set up before refrigerating the bottles. For best results, allow 24 hours.
Choosing the right label material, ink and adhesive for your craft beer label requires a delicate balance of properties. Don’t leave this job to chance. Contact T&L today to discuss your craft beer labeling needs.