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April 11, 2017

Shrink Sleeve Labels in the Age of Inkjet

One of the most popular trends in packaging design right now is the use of shrink sleeve labels.  From aluminum cans to glass and plastic bottles, shrink sleeve packaging is becoming a go-to choice. 

The recent surge in popularity and widespread adoption of this technique is due in large part to several key advantages shrink sleeve labels deliver over traditional packaging methods. To start, shrink sleeves are offering businesses a chance to create unique, custom designs. Brands have been taking advantage of sleeve labels as a way to make their products stand out from the competition. Shrink sleeves also open up additional opportunities when it comes to manufacturing the shape of a product’s container, as the method allows printed labels to form fit to just about any shape. With the ability to wrap around the entire container, businesses have more surface area than ever to use for packaging. For many companies, the increased surface area has the added benefit of being able to fit additional FDA mandated information on their packages without completely compromising design.

Inkjet Printing in Sleeve Labels

As more and more companies recognize the value of customized labels, producing them is becoming standard practice. Traditional printing methods for sleeve labels include flexographic printing and gravure printing, both of which require the creation of etched templates created for each new run. Digital inkjet printing, however, is becoming a go-to choice. This is the case for a number of reasons. Because inkjet does not require any plates or cylinders to be created, it’s a more cost-effective choice for smaller batch printing. The technology has allowed smaller businesses to create their own unique shrink sleeve labels for their products. The technology is catching on; inkjet is expected to command a majority of production by 2020.

Often, digital inkjet is combined with more traditional printing methods on the same shrink label run. For example, the main design may be printed using a flexographic printer. Then, an inkjet printer is used to add additional customization and barcodes. Inkjet printing’s speed makes this a popular choice.

EB Ink in Shrink Sleeve Labels

EB-curable inks in particular have great promise for shrink sleeve printing using inkjet technologies. Because EB inks do not require any heat source to cure, they can be used on even the most heat-sensitive shrink labeling substrates. Their reliability, cost-effectiveness, and the environmentally friendly nature of the inks also make them a popular choice! Because EB inks do not require a photoinitiator, the concern over photoinitiator migration is eliminated. Photoinitiator migration occurs when breakdown products left over from a photo-induced hardening process disperse and seep in through a label. This is a particularly important issue facing businesses that operate in the heavily regulated world of packaging food products. The use of EB inks now completely removes this risk of ink migration contaminating food products.  

Eight Great Shrink Sleeve Label Designs

Many businesses are already exploring some of the amazing ways you can turn shrink sleeves into beautiful designs. We’ve selected eight of our favorite examples below.

1. Jose Cuervo

Jose Cuervo Shrink Sleeve Label


Jose Cuervo chooses a skull design for the Day of The Dead to honor the Mexican culture and add some color to the shelves. Also, these shrink sleeves change color. The material uses thermochromic technology to change when they are between 32°F and 42°F.

2. Popwater

Pop water shrink sleeve


POPwater is the healthy alternative to soda. They use their packaging to focus on their calorie count and bold flavor. The realistic looking fruit splashing into the water helps to better convey their message.

3. Jupik

Jupik beverage shrink sleeve


Jupik’s new, colorful labeling is sure to catch the attention of any passing toddler. They chose to display happy-go-lucky characters, sending a message to the children that drinking the fruit juice would be a delightful experience.


4. Heineken

Heineken shrink sleeve


Heineken chose some unique shrink sleeve designs, but cleverly incorporates their colors and logo. Anyone looking at these bottles could guess the brand. Heineken is also known for taking advantage of every marketing opportunity by changing their shrink sleeves based on global events.

5. True Fruit

True Fruit shrink sleeve


These vibrant shrink sleeves from True Fruit put emphasis on the fresh fruit they contain. The design definitely says healthy. The vertical lines of color not only look cool and refreshing, but add depth to the cup and maximize its size to the customer.

6. Method + Orla Kiely

Method shrink sleeve


In 2012, Method partnered with Olra Kiely, and they let their shrink sleeves tell the story. Notice that their brand name is barely detectable on these bottles, establishing the ultimate level of brand awareness.

7. Grumppaccino

Grumpy cat shrink sleeve


Many instantly recognize Grumpy Cat, the social media sensation turned meme. Grumppuccino uses a humorous approach that was expressed both in brand name and on their shrink sleeve. 

8. Fasten

Fasten yogurt shrink sleeve


Fasten uses their shrink sleeve design to show off what their product does for its loyal customers. The measuring tape around the diameter is a clever way to grab the attention of people searching for a low-cal option.

9. Thise Mejeri

Thise shrink sleeve


Thise Mejeri, a German beverage company, opts for a plain, matte background to lure in customers. The simplicity of the opaque yet cheerful design instills curiosity in consumers.


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