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Learn About the Main Types of Labels and Leaflets Used in Packaging

What’s the difference between pressure-sensitive labels and shrink sleeve labels? What are smart tags? Take a five-minute tour of the world of labels and leaflets and enhance your professional knowledge of packaging.

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Welcome back to Package This, where today, we are looking at the various types of labels used in today’s packaging. Labels do a lot: they carry product information, product and lot codes, branding, and security features, all while providing shelf appeal through graphics. You might be surprised by the variety of different labels and leaflets that are available, so be sure to stick around to the end and gain some industry knowledge along the way.

Let's jump right in on our label tour with one of the most common types: pressure-sensitive labels. Suppliers of this type of label include Weber Packaging, who provided this clip.

Pressure-sensitive (or PS) labels

Pressure-sensitive (or PS) labels are widely popular throughout many industries due to their ease of use and versatility. These labels come with an adhesive backing that adheres to packaging materials or containers when pressure is applied. They are used on bottles, cans, trays, bowls, tubs, cartons, cases and almost any other packaging material. And because they adhere securely to smooth surfaces, it makes them a top choice for many industries.

Weber, who also supplies label printing and application systems in addition to the label stock itself, prints labels on a wide range of label materials to match job requirements, as we see here. Using flexo or digital label press technology, Weber labels can include a protective laminate finish. Weber also inspects each label to make sure you get the high-quality label you need.

Weber can supply blank to 10-color custom labels as well as specialty labels including RFID, extended text and security labels for track and trace, some of which we will discuss later in this video.

Blank labelstock

Next, we have blank labelstock, which are unprinted labels that are sold on a roll. Companies use blank labelstock to print their own labeling information as part of a print-and-apply labeling operation. Using labelstock offers brands a versatile option for customization by your brand. This flexibility is especially valuable for businesses that require unique branding or variable information on their labels.

Pre-gummed labels

Now, let's talk about perhaps the most traditional label: pre-gummed labels, also called gummed labels. These labels come with an adhesive already applied, which is activated by moisture. This makes them ideal for applications where a strong, permanent bond is required. They're commonly used in the food and beverage industry and are one of the oldest types of labeling materials. You can find pre-gummed labels on wine bottles, aluminum cans and other containers.

Shrink sleeve labels and bands

In contrast to pre-gummed labels applied to a specific spot of a container, shrink sleeve labels and bands are heat-shrunk onto containers for a 360-degree branding opportunity. You’ve seen shrink sleeve labels on single serve chocolate milk bottles and other beverages. Shrink bands, like those placed on the necks of iced tea bottles, use the same technology, wrapping clear bands tightly around the neck of a bottle or other container as a tamper-evident solution. Some designs also allow a great view of the product inside the packaging.

Stretch sleeve labels

Stretch sleeve labels are another interesting type of label. Without the need for heat, these labels are stretched and applied to the container. This method is not only cost-effective but can also be a sustainable option. Stretch sleeves are a good option for irregularly shaped packaging, providing a snug fit without compromising on visual appeal so vital for brand success.

In-mold labels

In-mold labels are molded directly into the packaging during the thermoforming process and are common for household good items such as bottles of laundry detergent and other cleaning products. Because in-mold labels are durable and visually striking, they become an integral part of the container and its design.

Non-adhesive labels

What about a label that can be applied to a package without adhesive? Yes, they exist too! Non-adhesive labels are often paper-based and can be used whenever a label can be slipped in, applied using static electricity, or adhered via other creative methods without glue. While non-adhesive labels are not practical for every application, they can provide a sustainable option due to the elimination of adhesives that are often difficult to recycle.

Extended text labels

Now, we turn to labels often seen in the chemical, pharmaceutical and personal care product industries: extended text labels. Known by many other names including Extended Content Labels (or ECLs), piggyback labels and hinged labels, they are used whenever a product requires more space for information than can be contained on a traditional label. They unfold or expand, providing additional space for instructions, multilingual content, or regulatory information.

Smart tags

Smart tags or smart labels are some of the most high-tech label options on the market. These are labels equipped with technology like RFID or QR codes, enabling a connection between physical products and digital information. Smart tags are revolutionizing the industry, offering enhanced traceability, authentication, and consumer engagement through the packaging material itself.

Leaflets, inserts and outserts

Finally, included in the extended family of labels are related materials we group into the category of leaflets, inserts and outserts. These printed items are supplementary pieces of printed material that accompany the product, offering space for detailed instructions such as dosage information or instructions for pharmaceuticals, marketing messages, coupons, or additional product information.

And there you have it, a brief tour through the diverse world of labels and leaflets. As packaging professionals, understanding these options empowers you to make informed choices for your products. The right label can enhance branding, provide essential information, and even offer interactive experiences for consumers.

Thanks for watching this episode of Package This — your guide to packaging machinery and materials. For more videos on packaging machinery and materials, please subscribe to our full Package This series on YouTube. Be sure to share the video with your colleagues too.

And if you’re looking for the top label suppliers in North America who cover all the categories we just talked about, look no further than PMMI ProSource, a searchable directory of the top 1,000 packaging and processing suppliers in North America. Visit to search suppliers by package type, material, or features.

Until then, keep on packaging!  

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