UPM Raflatac, a substrates and adhesives supplier based in Mills River, NC, USA, has developed several products that are optimized for beverage labeling. In order to take advantage of the no-label look, which is key for beverages, UPM Raflatac has launched Vanish labels. This product range provides an invisible no-label look, while the company’s new Vanish PCR labels offer the same thin no-label look as regular Vanish films, but they are now constructed with a 90% recycled content face.
The label’s design and shelf appeal play a critical role in its success. “More and more high-end products – even bottled water – are switching to pressure sensitive labels instead of paper cut-and-stack labels. Brands need their labels to attract younger generations, which is where eye-popping graphics and sustainability factor in,” says Kyle Strenski, director, Global Business Development, UPM Raflatac. “Sustainability trends include packaging design and packaging processing improvements, light-weighting–like the growth of PET bottles in soft drinks–and waste reduction.”
The no-label look is valued in this application because it gives consumers a window into the product. Specifically, there is an opportunity to see the liquid inside the container.
There are a number of features that make for an effective beverage label, though. “A good beverage label offers the ability for high-quality print and graphics while combining different print techniques that will enhance and differentiate the product’s shelf appeal and image,” explains Katja Kivelä, marketing manager, Films, UPM Raflatac. “The labels often must be able to perform in moist environments and offer heat resistance. They are versatile, innovative and functional.”
In addition to the design of the label, the container and adhesive play key roles in a beverage’s success on the shelf. “Choosing the right adhesive is determined by the container type and the desired functionality,” adds Kivelä. “For glass bottles and aluminum cans, a no-label look is often desirable, and you want it to have water whitening resistance. The adhesives need to perform well in chilled environments and should offer excellent performance in high-speed application. Sustainability is important, and certain adhesives allow for resource optimization.”
Glass bottles are rigid, smooth and feature high surface energy. According to UPM Raflatac, glass bottles can have neck labels where a thin film is preferred. If used in an ice bucket, the label for a glass bottle should have high water whitening resistance and water resistance. Aluminum cans are rigid and the company says a no-label look is often desired.
Meanwhile, for PET containers, UPM Raflatac offer both permanent and wash-off solutions. The permanent adhesives are the same solutions as with glass bottles. The company’s wash-off RW85C adhesive is recognized by the Association of Plastic Recyclers for its ability to cleanly separate the label from the crushed PET flakes during the recycling process, which enables more bottle-to-bottle recycling and promotion of a circular economy.
PET containers can either be rigid–like a large juice bottle–or semi-squeezable–like a water bottle. PET container labels often need to stand up to chilled conditions and condensation.
Shrink sleeves have also penetrated the beverages space. “Light blocking sleeves have extended the shelf life for some products which has a very positive impact to the store and producer of these beverages,” says Strenski. “The nature of shrink has allowed for 360-degree labeling and use of non-traditional bottle shapes.”
As more beverage brands enter the market, UPM Raflatac sees digital printing as a viable alternative for many converters. Now, small companies can even bring in in-house printing capabilities due to the lower cost of printers, such as those from Epson, Primera, Afinia Label, and more.
“Everything is becoming digital, including printing,” explains Kirit Naik, director, R&D, Americas, UPM Raflatac. “In the beverage labels market, digital printing provides more decoration options and creates excellent brand images with instant, superior print quality. With the latest thinner substrate options available, and with digital printing providing personalized labels, you can have small job orders to create seasonal products as opposed to the traditionally printed can.”