What Are Pressure-Sensitive Labels? Basics & Applications

What Are Pressure-Sensitive Labels? Basics & Applications

Every detail matters in packaging. The choice of product labels, in particular, plays a critical role in not only conveying information but also influencing consumer perception of a product. Most Americans rely on labels for accurate product information, which is why effective product labels are essential.

Among the many labeling options, pressure-sensitive (PS) labels are incredibly flexible. The many potential combinations of adhesives, facestocks, multiple panels, inks, coatings, and die cuts make them possibly the most adaptable and least expensive marketing tool for any business.

Brands can easily customize label designs with PS labels to meet evolving market demands. They are a vibrant canvas for brand communication, from graphics to informative panels.

What Are Pressure-Sensitive Labels?

A pressure-sensitive label is a self-adhesive packaging element that adheres to surfaces upon the application of pressure. It requires no additional activation, such as heat or water, making it a versatile and widely used solution in product packaging across industries.

A PS label can handle any design, from simple, minimalist labels to bold colors with creative fonts. The creative options are limitless.

The simplicity of application also lets companies avoid obsolescence due to shifting regulatory policies regarding extended producer responsibility (EPR). Organizations can buy standard, undecorated primary packaging and do late-stage product differentiation by applying a PS label to future-proof their packaging in the face of new environmental regulations.

Components of pressure-sensitive labels

Here are the primary components of pressure-sensitive labels:

1. Face stock

The outermost layer of a PS label is typically made from materials such as paper, film, or foil. It provides a printable surface on which product information and graphics are displayed.

2. Adhesive layer

Enables the label to adhere to surfaces upon the application of pressure. It can vary in tackiness and composition depending on the packaging material and supply chain steps. For example, a product headed for a freezer will have different adhesives than one that’s for shelf display.

3. Release liner

The backing material protects the adhesive layer until one applies the label. It is usually made of paper or film treated with a release coating to facilitate easy removal during application.

Printing Methods for Pressure-Sensitive Labels

PS labels use two primary printing methods, namely digital and flexographic printing. The label design, quantity, and intended destination play a role in determining which is more applicable.

pressure-sensitive label printing

Digital printing

Digital printing directly transfers digital images onto the label material without using plates. This method offers high-quality, customizable prints suitable for short print runs and variable data applications. For instance, if a company wants 150,000 of 25 SKUs (stock-keeping units) of frozen product labels, they will likely have a petroleum-based facestock with freezer grade adhesive printed digitally.

Flexographic printing

Flexographic printing utilizes flexible relief plates to transfer ink onto the label material. It’s well-suited for high-volume printing with fast production speeds and supports various substrates. Using the same example above, 150,000 of 3 SKUs for a same-sized vitamin label may require flexographic printing on a paper material with an all-temperature adhesive.

Substrates and finishes for Pressure-Sensitive Labels

The choice of substrates and finishes significantly influences the appearance, durability, and how well it conveys information through the PS label.

1. Types of materials used

One can make a PS label from various materials, including paper, film, foil, and synthetics. Each has unique characteristics, such as durability, moisture resistance, flexibility, and environmental impact. These materials cater to different applications, ensuring labels withstand various conditions while maintaining visual appeal and functionality.

2. Finishing options

Finishing options encompass a spectrum of choices, such as glossy, matte, and specialty coatings. Glossy finishes give a vibrant, shiny appearance that’s iconic for store shelves where products must compete for attention. Matte finishes provide a more subdued, elegant look with reduced glare.

Depending on the desired effect, specialty coatings such as UV or varnishes can add additional protection and visual changes. For example, RFID labels can benefit from a waterproof finish to help protect their function.

Common Pressure-Sensitive Label Applications

Pressure-sensitive labels find diverse applications across various industries due to their flexibility, durability, and freedom of customization. Here are some examples:

1. Retail packaging

Pressure-Sensitive Label Applications

In retail, PS labels are commonly used for shelf and price labeling, allowing for convenient price adjustments and the display of product details. Stores often utilize them for promotions, creating attention-grabbing labels for discounts or special offers.

PS labels are crucial in branding fast-moving consumer goods such as food, beverages, cosmetics, and personal care products. They resist environmental factors while providing ample opportunities for vibrant branding.

2. Logistics and shipping

PS labels are indispensable for logistics and shipping, serving as address labels and displaying shipping information. Organizations also use them for inventory management and tracking to ensure the efficient handling and delivery of goods.

Because shipping relies on clear labels with unique information for each package, PS labels’ easy customization and versatility make them ideal for communicating information clearly and accurately. Logistics companies can also apply product identification measures such as barcodes, QR codes, serial numbers, and batch information on any packaging type.

3. Healthcare and pharmaceuticals

Healthcare providers use PS labels for prescription labeling, ensuring accurate medication administration and patient safety. They are also crucial for medical device labeling, providing essential information for proper use and compliance with regulations.

Many PS labels related to pharmaceuticals feature tamper-evident features, ensuring product integrity and compliance with regulatory requirements.

4. Industrial and manufacturing

PS labels serve various purposes in industrial settings. Manufacturers use them for labeling machinery, tools, and components – facilitating efficient inventory management and asset tracking.

They are also critical for hazard and safety labeling, providing crucial warnings and instructions for safe operation in industrial environments. PS labels often mark hazardous areas, machinery, and chemicals, reducing the risk of accidents.

PS labels can withstand harsh industrial conditions, including exposure to chemicals, moisture, and high temperatures, maintaining readability and adhesive strength even in challenging environments.

The Impact of a Reliable Label

The choice of labels conveys crucial information, but more importantly, it shapes consumer perceptions about your brand and product. When first impressions matter, pressure-sensitive labels can be the most reliable, impactful, and affordable option in any industry.

Consult experts at Meyers to optimize your labeling strategy. Let us bring your vision to life with custom packaging solutions tailored to your packaging needs.