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Embrace shrink-sleeve labels help craft brewer Against The Grain (Louisville) halve lead times, reduce inventory and double sales.

Rick Lingle, Senior Technical Editor

June 5, 2018

4 Min Read
Eastman PETG sleeve labels reap benefits for craft brewer

The global shrink sleeve labels market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.5% during the period 2017-2023, dominated by the food and beverage market, according to a June 2018 report from Market Research Future (Maharashtra, India).

The upswing results from sleeve-label benefits versus decoration alternatives for bottles and other containers including printed cans.

Those advantages are exactly why craft brewer Against The Grain (Louisville) collaborated with specialty plastics provider Eastman (Kingsport, TN) and Verst Packaging (Walton, KY) to create unique shrink-labeled cans. Verst’s shrink-labeled cans, made with Eastman Embrace LV copolyester (PETG), have helped ATG increase revenue, reduce lead times and double sales.

Prior to 2016, ATG used primarily printed cans, which required purchasing a full truckload (150,000 cans) for each SKU. Lead times averaged 20 weeks, and it was impossible to render graphics true to the artists’ intent, according to Sam J. Cruz, ATG co-owner and marketing visionary. Since converting from printed cans to Verst-manufactured shrink-labeled cans, ATG has launched 24 unique SKUs and cut lead times in half. ATG has better quality control and can create richer graphics with a myriad of textures that set the canned brews apart in the highly competitive craft beer market.

“From a fiscal perspective, we’re able to hold a leaner inventory, while maintaining a large number of SKUs,” says Cruz.

According to Eastman, Embrace LV facilitates superior aesthetics, increased functionality and viable sustainable packaging with recycle-friendly, full-body shrink labels. Embrace enables differentiated labeling wrapped around contoured, complex and thin-walled containers for food, beverages, distilled spirits as well as household products and personal care.

The designation LV stands for low shrink force (L) and versatile shrink curve (V), explains Eastman’s Ronnie Little, market development manager, SP-Plastics Packaging. “Embrace LV is the most popular product in the line because of the high ultimate shrinkage in the transverse direction and the controlled growth in the machine direction along with low shrink force.”

EastPack 2018 held June 12-14 in New York City features the latest in manufacturing and automation, a dedicated 3D Printing Zone, hundreds of exhibitors and a jam-packed 3-day packaging conference. For more information, visit the EastPack website.

Launched in 2000, the Embrace product line evolved into a growing portfolio of products, with the additions of Embrace LV in 2006 and High Yield (HY) in 2007.  

“Embrace High Yield shrink labels are naturally opaque white and have a density 30% lower than Embrace LV,” Little says. “Light blocking is a key value proposition along with the low density.”

The Embrace family of shrink-film resins also includes Eastman RAS technology for roll-applied shrink film.

Additionally, brand owners can increase the recyclability of shrink-labeled products: Eastman now offers a de-seamable seaming adhesive that helps remove shrink labels from PET containers during the recycling process, improving recycled PET yields.

“SunLam De-seaming Adhesive replaces a traditional solvent seam on shrink labels,” Little points out. “It works early in the whole bottle wash recycling process to remove shrink labels and increase the quality and volume of RPET for recyclers.”

SunLam has earned a Responsible Innovation Acknowledgement from the Association of Plastics Recyclers (APR) and is included in APR’s Design Guide for Plastics Recyclability. 

Brands that are members of How2Recycle (H2R) and use Embrace LV with SunLam are eligible to use the H2R labels on their packaging.

Matte finish for looks and grippability

The brewery relies almost exclusively on matte-finish labelstock.

“This gives a more premium look to the beer cans and helps consumers with gripping the cans,” Cruz explains. “We have also utilized the textured labels for a few labels. When used properly, they provide a unique experience in communicating a brand's intention or connection to other senses.”

Contract packager Verst launched its turnkey solution for shrink-sleeved cans in 2016, giving brewers like ATG the option to purchase up to six SKUs per truckload, thereby diversifying their product offerings.

 “Our shrink-labeled cans give brewers greater flexibility, better cash flow and superior graphics,” says Peter Parker, aka “The Can Guy,” director of business development for Verst.

Verst Packaging has doubled sales since introducing shrink labels.

“About 80% of that is for beer,” Parker adds, noting that other markets include craft sodas, craft cocktails and wine in a can.

Uncompromising artistry

In addition to the transportation, storage and related advantages of the PETG labels, there was the artistic consideration that ATG greatly appreciates.

In pointing to the Embrace labels flexo-printed in from 8 to 10 colors, Cruz says “the quality control and lack of limitations with our graphics makes for cans that pop on the shelf.”

That was absolutely crucial for him and for the brand.

 “We wanted our graphic scheme to align with our artist intention,” Cruz explains. “Printing on metal and doing traditional printing often leaves a lot to be desired. With the material we are using for our sleeves from Eastman and Verst, we are able to get as close as possible to our specific art intention. Colors, texture, all that matters. We stand out by not compromising on our values of providing an excellent product. The sleeves make all that possible.”

About the Author(s)

Rick Lingle

Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday

Rick Lingle is Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree from Clarke College and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-481-1426.

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