Product and package labels are ubiquitous in today’s retail world. Along distribution networks, shipping labels help companies trace products, maintain inventory, and ensure that packages arrive at their rightful locations. On store shelves, product labels play a multi-faceted role. In addition to clearly demonstrating what the product is and who produced it, product labels provide a canvas to include essential information like:
Depending on the type of product, much of this information is explicitly required by state and federal regulations, especially when dealing with pharmaceutical products, certain food sectors (e.g. baby food, poultry, dairy, etc.), and chemical production.
To meet the needs of different line setups and packaging types, there are several different labels available on the market today, including “pressure-sensitive labels” and “self-adhesive labels.” For those new to labeling, these terms can be confusing, as they lead to questions like:
To answer these questions and others, we tackle the subject of pressure-sensitive labels vs. self-adhesive labels below.
Despite the terminology, there is no difference between pressure-sensitive labels and self-adhesive labels—both terms describe the same material and application process. To avoid confusion, we will refer to these labels as pressure-sensitive for the rest of the article.
Pressure-sensitive labels bear a strong resemblance to stickers due to their adhesive backing. However, pressure-sensitive labels are thicker and more durable than stickers thanks to their multi-layer construction. The average pressure-sensitive label is built with five layers, with each tier performing a specific function, such as enabling application, increasing durability, and adding aesthetic appeal.
From bottom to top, these layers consist of:
While there are many types of labels on the market today, pressure-sensitive labels are the most widely used variety worldwide. From a logistical standpoint, it’s easy to see why.
Pressure-sensitive labels are incredibly versatile because they can be made from different materials to fit different substrates. This allows them to be placed on everything from plastic water bottles to shrink-wrapped bulk products. Further, pressure-sensitive labels can be applied both by hand and through a high-speed print-and-apply labeler, making them accessible to companies and line setups of all sizes.
Other benefits include:
Although pressure-sensitive labels offer a host of benefits, they do have some drawbacks as well.
For one, they are not cheap. Compared to direct printing/laser marking, the material cost of applying labels carries a higher price point. Additionally, unless you are using a high-speed print-and-apply system, applying pressure-sensitive labels can be a time-consuming activity. Finally, pressure-sensitive labels are inherently wasteful—once the face stock is removed from the backing, the liner is automatically considered scrap.
Despite these drawbacks, companies in nearly all industries find pressure-sensitive labels to be an effective way to make their products code-compliant and attractive to consumers.
Pressure-sensitive labels are one of the most common and effective ways to make products ready for retail sale. Although industry terminology can confuse some readers, pressure-sensitive labels vs. self-adhesive labels are both terms that refer to one single (and very popular) labeling material.
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