Sticker Labels on Your Canned Packaged

On August 7, Brewer spoke with breweries that use sticker labels on their products and why. We had more breweries share their input as well and we wanted to continue the discussion with Nantahala and Empire Brewing Companies.

Nantahala’s primary package is 12-ounce glass bottles, but Kate Dickey says the brewery saw some distribution opportunities that required cans about two years ago.

“Most music venues, sporting arenas/stadiums and outdoor-centric events/festivals required cans to gain distribution,” she said. “So, we began canning a few of our most popular flagships to meet those requirements.

“Since cans are not our primary package and we were not sure which brands would deplete the fastest, we chose to purchase a truckload of blank cans and use our existing labeling equipment to label our cans instead of committing to truckloads of printed cans.”

This gave them the flexibility to put any brands they wanted into cans and adjust production qualities based on actual sales versus projected.

“Our bottled products still outperform our cans and as a result, we do not have plans to expand in that area just yet,” Dickey said. “Plus with the new tariffs increasing aluminum pricing and creating shortages in the market, we’ll be sticking to glass for the foreseeable future since glass in abundant.”

As for the labeling, Nantahala is exploring other options and once they run out of the current supply of blank cans, they will likely convert over to printed cans since there are new options in the market that will allow them to order more than one SKU per truckload and pay as they use them versus a large up-front cost of a truckload.

“We also have a few years of sales data that allows us to make better decisions regarding what qualities we should order per brand,” she pointed out.

Empire has used sticker labels for all of their canned products so far, said Monica Palmer, the brewery’s Design Director.

“We did consider shrink wrapped labels, but most of our local manufacturers required breweries to ship their cans to the label company to be shrink wrapped before being sent back,” she explained. “Logistically, the process is a bit complicated for such a fast-paced industry.

“Aesthetically, Empire’s can label design incorporates the natural beauty of aluminum so label stickers revealing silver at the top and bottom work to our advantage.”

The New York state brewery hasn’t made any big changes so far, however they will consider shrink wrapped labels moving forward as DWS, a label manufacturer they currently work with, is sourcing their own aluminum which would make the whole process much more attractive to the brewery.

At some point, Palmer said Empire would like to print cans for the core brands.

“With a standard minimum of 200,000, we haven’t been able to bite that nut just yet,” she said. “For now, I personally really like the classic look of a sticker label on our core brands. It has a little ‘craft’ charm, I think, but the seasonals might be a fun opportunity to experiment with wraps.

“We like to move those seasonals and specialty beers quick when they hit the market, so different labels that jump out are appealing.”

She added that one of the nice things about can labels is that they aren’t applied until the can is successfully filled, so if something goes wrong on the line you’re wasting product and aluminum but not labels.

“We’ve witnessed a few mobile canning mini-dramas, not exclusive to Empire’s own product, where something goes wrong and suddenly you’re looking at a decent amount of pre-wrapped can waste which could be devastating for a small brewer operating with thin margins,” Palmer said. “We’ve found some good local mobile guys however and would feel confident trying shrink wrap labels for ourselves at this point. The shrink wrap technology has come a long way itself, and offers a real sleek look.”

1 Comment

  1. I would be happy to discuss the many options available in adhesive labels that are now available and make shrink sleeves and printed cans not necessarily the best options available for cans. Adhesive labels have come a long way in this area and not all give the “silver bullet” look that many have been gun shy from.
    There is a great substrate readily available that is a great alternative to the shrink sleeve! Let’s chat labels…

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