Shrink sleeve and the canned beer revolution

Micro-brewed beer in cans makes sense for consumers because it let them take it to places like the beach, fishing and camping. 

The term ‘’canned beer revolution’’ has been used to describe the growing popularity of the aluminum can for craft beer.  Now, have you heard about the sleeved can revolution?

By Oliver Arian

Unlike many beer lovers, I really don’t have a preference to drink my favourite beverage from a glass bottle or a can.  I enjoy bottles for social drinking at a bar or at home with a few friends and the cans at the race track, for fishing trips and when we have large family parties.

Micro-brewed beer in cans makes sense for consumers because it let them take it to places like the beach, fishing and camping.  It also makes sense for breweries because it is a great packaging to keep the beer fresh, it is easily recyclable, it is light and it does not break. 

However, a common problem for many small and midsize microbreweries is the minimum quantities of printed cans they need to buy and keep in their warehouse.  By the time you add the regular beers plus any specialty or seasonal, this means a lot of inventory.  For many craft breweries, buying and warehousing trailers of empty cans is simply not possible. 

One solution is to buy generic cans, often referred as ‘’silver bullet’’ and to decorate them in-house with pressure-sensitive labels or shrink sleeves.  A can with a clear pressure-sensitive label can be very attractive, but the area covered by the label is limited to the straight wall section of the can.  However, a shrink sleeve will cover the tapered portions of the can at the top and bottom, and with the glossy finish of the sleeve, it really makes the can stand-out.

Shrink sleeves can be ordered in rolls or pre-cut, in which case the sleeves would be applied by hand on the cans and ran through a heat shrink tunnel.  For small operations, the pre-cut shrink sleeves could be a good option to start because it limits the investment to a shrink tunnel and a section of motorized conveyor.  The automatic shrink sleeve applicator can be added at a later stage, once the volumes are more important. 

Another benefit of the shrink sleeve on beer cans compared to pressure-sensitive labels is that beer cans do not have to be completely dry to apply the sleeves.  This means the shrink sleeve applicator and heat tunnel can be located after the filler, instead of before the filler like it is often the case with PS labelers. 

It is also possible to apply the shrink sleeves on the empty cans off-line if there is no space to add the shrink tunnel in the production line.  I have seen customers who bought a Heat Shrink Tunnel to apply shrink sleeves exclusively to empty cans to supply craft breweries small quantities of cans, just in time.


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