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The Essential Guide to Labelling for Craft Beer & Cocktail Cans

Craft beer and canned cocktails are sectors of the beverage industry that are experiencing incredible growth. With the effects of pandemic lockdowns and the influence of younger generations of consumers, small beverage companies are springing up to fill the new demand. In a context of increasing competition, it’s more important than ever for producers to create attractive, durable packaging that helps their products stand out from the crowd.

In this article, find out about the pros and cons of different kinds of can labels to help you determine which is best for your business.

The advantages of using cans

First of all, cans keep their contents fresher for longer than bottles do. This is because they effectively keep out oxygen and light, both of which can affect taste and freshness. Beverages in cans also chill faster than they do in other containers, which is a definite plus when it comes to beer and ready to drink cocktails.

Cans are lighter, easier to stack and don’t break, meaning that they are more portable and can be taken anywhere. They are accepted in most environments, including beaches, boats, and music venues.

Furthermore, they are better for the environment. Aluminum cans are made up of 73% recycled materials on average, over 50% more than glass or plastic bottles, and they are more likely to be recycled again.

Can labelling options


Separate labels tend to be available in much smaller print runs, particularly compared to direct digital printing. This makes them a much more accessible option for microbreweries that need beer can labels and other small beverage businesses.

Wrap labels

Wrap labels are applied to the can with adhesive. They are very versatile, and can be paper or plastic, matte or glossy, with many other options besides. However, they do not provide as much container coverage as direct printing or shrink sleeves, and the adhesive can sometimes cause label failure.

Paper is possibly the most inexpensive can label material, and can provide a traditional, handcrafted look. That being said, it is not as durable or waterproof as other can labelling options. Even when varnished or laminated, paper can be torn, discoloured or damaged by the rigours of transportation, refrigeration and water-filled coolers.

While film labels hold up better during the process of getting beverages to consumers, their durability persists once they are disposed of in landfills, making them a less eco-friendly option.

Shrink sleeve labels

Shrink sleeve labels are applied using heat, which causes them to shrink to the exact dimensions of the can. This eliminates the need for adhesive and has the advantage of working for any can size. However, it can create challenges for label designers, because the change in size can sometimes end up distorting the image. Shrink sleeves also present the same problems for the environment as film labels.

Moreover, plastic shrink sleeves have been banned in Quebec as of September 1, 2021. Quebec is ahead of other Canadian provinces and American states, and regulations are expected to follow in the same direction as Quebec in the months and years to come. 

Printing directly on the can

Printing the label directly onto the surface of the can is a more eco-friendly practice that generates less waste than using separate labels. It can also provide 360-degree coverage, offering more branding space than wrap labels.

Digital printing

Digital printing directly onto cans is a method primarily used by major beverage companies, since it is quite costly and generally has very large order minimums. Smaller producers who opt for this type of can labelling may end up needing to store large numbers of pre-printed cans that could become obsolete before they can even be used.

Direct digital printing also has the disadvantage of not offering any sort of texture. Cans with labels that offer a unique texture are more likely to stand out and appeal to consumers, so companies that opt for digital printing miss out on the opportunity to differentiate their products from the competition.

Silk screen printing

Screen printing is a technique with a long, rich history that still has many benefits today. The ink is printed directly onto the can using a mesh screen stencil, creating a raised tactile effect that provides a high-quality feel. The colours are richer and more vibrant than digitally printed labels, and silk screen can labels are more durable and better for the environment than containers with separate labels.

The importance of comprehensive branding

While selecting an attractive, cost-effective, durable and high-quality label is mightily important for your product’s success, it’s not the only consideration. The best label in the world will have a limited effect if it isn’t supported by a comprehensive, well-thought-out branding strategy.

Carefully consider what your brand stands for and how you want to represent it to your customers, and then use that to influence every design choice you make, from the type of label you use to your colour scheme, imagery and even your font!

Give your can labelling an edge with D4Pack!

D4Pack is the leading commercial screen printing company in Canada. Our unparalleled labelling services are cost-effective, eco-friendly, and available for even the smallest print runs. Whether you’re looking for exceptional packaging or more comprehensive services that include branding and logistics, our experts have got your products covered! Contact us today.

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