15 Mar Selecting the right beer labeling equipment for your needs
Selecting the right beer labeling equipment for your needs
Your overall production depends not only on how fast you can bottle it, but also on reliability and performance of peripheral equipment such as labeling systems, case packing and all the logistics around the brewery. In this process, one of the challenges faced by many brewers is selecting labeling equipment that meets their needs and budget. Adding efficient labeling equipment can dramatically increase productivity and pay for itself quickly by immediately increasing production.
Labels vs pre-printed cans for beer
For small batches, can labels offer huge cost advantages. Labeling is a just-in-time process, allowing you to adjust production to demand. Instead of keeping a variety of can models in stock, you only need to store one type of container, changing the labels to suit your product. A single label pallet can cover multiple pallets of cans or bottles.
Beer cans and bottles are easy to find and cheaper than pre-printed cans, especially for small volume products.
The delivery time for labels is usually much shorter, takes up less space and costs less overall. Custom labels can be ordered in any quantity you want and are easy to put on shelves. These labels represent an ideal solution for seasonal beers and promotional products.
To remain competitive in the market, your beer must be able to stand out on the shelf. In a recent survey, 66% of respondents said that a beer packaging / label design is “very” or “extremely” important to get them noticed. 60% of respondents say the packaging is “very” or “extremely” important in convincing them to try it.
The printing options for labels are offering almost no limits to creativity in comparison to printing directly on the cans.
What should I look for in a beer labeler?
Opaque labels can be applied with basic labeling equipment. These labels give a more traditional look to the bottle and contrast with the container. These labels are mainly used by smaller breweries (and even some home brewers).
Clear labels blend into the bottle or can, making them almost indistinguishable from printed containers to achieve a so-called “no-label look”. Automatic labelers typically use cameras or optical sensors to perform orientation of the containers before label application. To use transparent labels, capacitive sensors are required, such as those on Gernep labelers.
Bottle or can size
The craft beer market is dominated by predefined sizes:
– 12 oz standard beverage can
– Box of 16 oz “pounder”
– 32 ounces growler can – a.k.a. the “crowler”
– 335 ml for the standard size bottle in North America
– In Canada the standard bottle size is 341 ml
With the right labeler, you can easily change container sizes, which adds flexibility without increasing equipment costs. The speed will vary depending on many variables such as the length of labels, the size of containers, orientation etc. A standard label for a 12 oz. the can is 8 inches long, while a Crowler tag is 9 inches long. Not only the label is longer on the crowlers compared to labeling 12 oz cans, but the container has a bigger diameter and the crowlers need to be oriented with the handle.
The speed of labeling is important because if your labeling capacity does not match your production capacity, you are creating a bottleneck and your efficiency will greatly suffer. As a rule of thumb, any machine located downstream another machine should be around 10% faster. For example, if you are labeling after the filler/capper which runs at 200 bottles per minute, your labeler should be capable to achieve 220 bottles per minute. Assuming there is sufficient accumulation space between both machine, it would allow to stop the labeler for a few minutes to change the label rolls while the filler/capper monoblock keeps running.
Some craft breweries choose a basic model in their first few years of operation but are quickly overwhelmed by their production needs. Choosing a labeling system with capacity to grow your production could be a smart move.
Rotary vs inline labelers
Inline labeling machines apply the labels on the bottles as they suggest, in line. Inline machines are popular and easy to adjust to suit your needs. Small and medium-sized businesses often use inline filling machines, as the base models are usually less expensive.
On the other hand, rotary labeling machines are generally much faster and will offer more flexibility for labeling technologies such as pressure-sensitive or cold glue cut & stack. Another key benefit of rotary labelers is the possibility to have machines with redundant label heads, which allows for non-stop production. Basically, for each label position on the bottle, there are two label applicators with the same label running in alternance. For instance, if you apply front-back and neck labels in redundancy, you will have a machine with 6 label heads. If your business is growing, the speed, volume and precision of rotary labelers remain unmatched.
Craft brewery start-ups often choose manual labeling or bench top labelers to launch their products, and this is perfectly OK, bootstrapping is essential to get going. However, when the volumes increase and you have a better idea of where your business is heading, it is important to consider all the options available to purchase the right labeler that will grow with you, at least for a few years.
Need help in choosing the right model, please contact us.