The appearance of your wine labels either adds or detracts from how consumers perceive your brand.
No winemaker can get away with poorly labeled bottles. Even though wine’s stigma has undergone a renaissance from being the drink of choice for “snobs” to a beverage for the everyman, quality — or at least the perception of quality — still matters when attracting customers.
Humans are exceptionally good at noticing when small details are… off. In robotics, this is called the “uncanny valley,” where something is close to being normal but has some slight variation that makes it feel unnatural and strange. For the purposes of today’s discussion, let’s talk about staying out of the uncanny valley with your wine bottle labels.
No More Hand Labeling Wine
When customers see your wine sitting on a shelf, each bottle lined up neatly, they’ll quickly see imperfections. A label that looked so straight when you were painstakingly applying it can look laughably crooked when placed next to dozens of other bottles with the same problem. Add the inconsistency of hand application, and you get labels that peel or bubble, and suddenly a wine that might be otherwise delicious is overlooked because the labeling communicates imperfection. Remember, labels influence purchasing decisions.
This is the problem you face with hand labeling. No matter how focused and steady they are, employees can’t match the precision of a machine when it comes to wine labeling. Or the speed. Machines can increase productivity by 500% over hand labeling, saving you time, money, and effort.
The Economics of Wine Label Application
Purchasing a dedicated wine labeler might seem like it will cost drastically more than paying an employee to label bottles, but really, the employee will end up costing more. If the labeler can turn out 500 bottles when your employee could only do 100, think about what that means for your packaging line’s output over the next week, month, and year. The labeler will pay for itself quickly.
When purchasing labeling equipment, you may not need one with all the bells and whistles, either. Inexpensive, semi-automatic tabletop labelers won’t break the bank and will still label far more bottles than any employee. And, if you need to have labeling done in different parts of your packaging line, small labelers can be moved from room to room with minimal effort.
The Flexibility of Wine Labeling
Being able to move labelers around your building isn’t the only flexibility you should consider. Let’s say you have containers of different sizes and shapes. For example, you wouldn’t use Pinot Noir and Chianti bottles interchangeably. While an employee might struggle with applying a label to a bottle with a strange or unusual shape, a labeler can be set up to accept multiple bottle types and store the settings for different product runs.
When stepping up to a wine labeler, it doesn’t mean you will suddenly have an employee with no purpose, either. Someone will need to oversee the machine. Whatever equipment you decide to purchase should be user-friendly so that training doesn’t take up too much time. You should be able to have different staff members use the labeling equipment as needed.
Types of Labels for Wine
If you decide to go ahead and upgrade to a labeling machine, you’ll need to decide on what kind of labels you want. Some options include:
- Front/back labels. These are industry standard and most of what you’ll see when looking at any wine shelf in a shop. Even if you purchase a labeler that can only label one side at a time, you can always run the bottles through again with a different label. However, getting a labeler that can handle the front and the back at the same time would increase production speed.
- Wrap-around labels. These labels wrap around the circumference of the bottle and usually only use adhesive at the ends where the label joins itself. They offer more coverage than front/back labels for more branding opportunities.
- Shrink sleeves. While shrink sleeves are popular on sodas, water, sports drinks, and beer, they are rarely found on wine bottles. However, with the rise in popularity of single-serving wines, shrink sleeves have found their way into the world of wine. Shrink sleeves work by having a machine place the sleeve over the container, and a heat tunnel then shrinks the sleeve to create a permanent bond. There’s no adhesive used so that the labels can be separated for recycling or container reuse.
If you’re planning to expand your operation to include new products but don’t want to spend more money on equipment than needed, look for the most flexible wine labeler you can. A front/back labeler can cover a lot of ground, even doubling as a top and bottom labeler in a pinch. But if you want to take over the world of wine with your dazzling array of products, you may want to invest in a labeler that can accommodate several different application styles.
The Size of Your Wine Labeling Operation
Ultimately, you have to make decisions based on the size of your current operation and how much you want your winery to grow. Hand labeling is slow, laborious, and imprecise. Machines are the opposite of all those things. If you're going to invest in your future, a labeling machine is a way to go.
Look over your budget carefully before you purchase. A labeler is a big purchase, even though it will pay for itself. Buy according to the size of your packaging operation. Don't get burdened by features you won't use. Purchase wisely.
How to Choose the Right Wine Labeling Partner
When shopping for labeling equipment, look for a manufacturer with experience and expertise. Make sure the labelers are easily serviceable, durable, and user-friendly. To help, we've put together The Winemaker's Guide to Labeling Equipment. It's a free download that covers the types of labeling equipment that would work for wine labeling lines.