How do I label hot filled products?

Containers and labels expand and contract when heated and cooled which can cause the label to wrinkle and bubble (this issue is more pronounced with plastic containers than glass). It’s important to let us know that you need to label hot filled products so we’ll know to use a label material with a special adhesive to avoid label issues. We also recommend testing label materials before placing an order so you don’t waste time and resources on the wrong label material. Material samples are available upon request.

Another option for labeling hot filled products is to use shrink sleeve labels which wrap around a container for 360-degree graphics coverage. Unlike pressure sensitive labels that use adhesives and are applied by pressure, shrink sleeves are shrunk onto the container using mechanical shrinking equipment like a steam tunnel, radiant heat tunnel, hot air tunnel, or hybrid tunnel (combines heat and steam). We recommend using a steam tunnel for shrink sleeves because it uses less energy to run than other types of tunnels, produces better results, and is easier to configure. Steam tunnels are becoming the label industry’s standard method of shrinking sleeves onto filled product containers because its relatively low temperatures (usually between 170-180 degrees) make it safe for filled products to pass through.

After your hot filled product has cooled and dried, the product is ready for labeling. You or the co-packer will need application equipment that will work with your pressure sensitive roll labels or shrink sleeves. If you have pressure sensitive labels, then a rotary labeling machine (also called ‘rotary labeling system’) or an inline automatic labeling system will be needed depending on the production line and output. Other considerations that will need to be taken into account are label adhesives, size, material, and placement (i.e. front and back, top and bottom, neck and shoulder, or wrapped around.) Adhesives are particularly important because a special adhesive will need to be used for hot filled containers.

Next, the labeled hot filled product goes to the secondary packaging station where they’re packed for shipment. Secondary packaging allows for easier product protection, handling, palletization, and transportation. Popular secondary packaging options:

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Shrink wrapping
  • Carton trays
  • Plastic crates

Depending on your product and transportation needs, you will likely find that a certain type is more suited for you than another. Discuss with your co-packer or packaging equipment vendor to see which option is right for you.