Labels being applied by a bottle labeling machine

4 Things to Consider in a Bottle Labeling Machine

Picture this: your business is booming and (finally) ready to move beyond a manual labeling machine, stepping into the big world of labeling automation. But, where do you begin when looking for a bottle label applicator that’s easy to use and a good fit for your business? 

Bottle label applicators have many options, even within models, because many of these products need multiple labels (and manufacturers want machines that have the ability to accommodate several bottle sizes). So, how do you go about choosing a machine that’s right for your product lines?

What Makes Semi-Automatic and Automatic Bottle Labeling Machines Different from Other Label Applicators?

Bottle labeling systems are far more complex than other package labeling applicators. The process starts when bottles enter the labeler’s conveyor belt (often immediately after going through the filling machine). 

Guide rails support the bottles as they form a single line, and the bottles then pass by one or more label applicators. Each applicator draws adhesive labels from a reel and rolls them onto the bottles. Rollers grip the bottle, spinning it as the label is applied, and that rotation is timed with the applicator, while the rollers keep the bottle from rocking back and forth. This sturdiness ensures even application. 

Sensors on automatic bottle labeling machines detect the bottle position and label positions so the bottle can be lined up for each new label. This helps orient back, front, cover and neck labels, and these bottle label applicator machines can handle plastic bottles, glass bottles, and even stainless steel metal bottles. Label applicators are also designed to accommodate different label sizes and label widths

Labeling boxes is different; you can buy a machine built specifically for that type of task, whether you need top labels or corner wrap labels, either with or without printing. (Be sure to check out our case study on working directly with Amazon for more information on that process!) 

Bottle labelers use modular construction throughout, which gives you options for the number of labels it applies (and their position), as well as the types of bottles it can handle. This means you have several decisions to make about the initial setup and also need to consider changes and upgrades you might want/need to make in the future.

1. What Bottle Shapes Do You Use?

The vast majority of bottles are cylindrical containers, so most labeling machines can only handle cylindrical bottles. Tapered bottles need applicators that can apply labels without skewing them while using rollers that can grip the sides for orientation.

However, it’s important to have all your product information in hand before choosing a bottle labeling system because your chosen bottles might not be round containers! Labeling a square bottle is like labeling a box. It has sides that can be oriented, and labels can be placed on each side or wrapped around the bottle. In these instances, you need a bottle labeler/applicator that handles rectangular objects but has space for the necks of the bottles. 

2. What Bottle Size Do You Use?

Obviously, you need a machine that can handle your bottles. However, you may find it useful to get a machine that handles multiple bottle sizes to fit shifting product demands.

For example, if you’re bottling wine, you need a machine that can handle 750 mL bottles. Bottling beer or craft soda? You probably use 12 oz. bottles. However, by limiting your offerings to one type of packaging, you could limit sales opportunities in the future. If you’re selling wine, adding half bottles to your line may help boost sales to restaurants and bars. (This ensures the wine is fresh, while offering customers a low-cost way to try new wines.)

Likewise, a brewery may choose to sell their standard products in 12 ounce beer bottles and cans, while packing specialty or seasonal beers in wine bottles or growlers. A recent trend for 1.5 liter Magnum bottles is being spurred by both presentation and by advantages in bottle aging, especially for carbonation. So, it’s important for each beer bottle labeling machine to work for (and adapt to) unique bottling processes.

No matter what you’re bottling, you need to think about accommodating different sizes and shapes of bottles for various markets, including bottles in both customary and metric sizes. 

3. What Types of Adhesive Labels Do You Need? 

Depending on your product design, you may need anywhere from 1-5 adhesive labels for your product.

Wrap-Around Labels: 

Wrap-around labeling is the simplest and least expensive way to label a bottle. There’s no need to orient a cylindrical bottle, since there’s no front, so the machine simply rolls the bottle around as it applies a label that covers most of the bottle’s side.

Front/Back Labels: 

There are two ways to apply front/back labels. With two labeling attachments, the bottle is oriented and labeled twice along the conveyor. This may be the best way to go, if you use a standard back label for multiple products, since you only need to change the front label roll when switching product lines. It also offers the best labeling speed. Some machines support front/back labels using a single label dispenser. The web has alternating front and back labels and the roller orients the bottle twice to apply these labels. 

Bottle Neck Labels: 

Bottle necks are tapered, requiring the same angled applications as an angled bottle. However, the rollers can still grip the cylindrical sides of the bottle. By adding label sensors, the bottle can also be oriented so that the front of the neck label lines up with the face label.

Tamper-Proof Labels: 

These labels wrap over the lid so that they must be torn to open the bottle. Tamper-proof bottle stickers also provide more space for text and graphics, letting you add detail to your bottle design. Like neck labels, they can be oriented to line up with the face or back labels.

Cover Labels: 

With a cover label, you can add an inexpensive label on top of your full color labels to meet market requirements. For example, you can use cover labels to add ingredient lists in the market’s native language.

4. Do You Need to Print on the Label?

Serial numbers, expiration dates, bar codes and production codes can be added to the labeling machine by incorporating a print engine. For long-term storage, you’ll want to use thermal transfer printing, which melts ink onto the label. This process doesn’t require thermal paper, and the text will be visible throughout the life of the product.

Examples of Bottle Labeling Machines

Most of our customers settle on these two bottle-specific models: the vertical trunnion roller and the wine bottle labeler.

Our vertical trunnion roller labeling system is built for products that need multiple labels.

Although it was originally designed for a bourbon producer, it can accommodate a wide range of bottle sizes, including 12 oz. bottles. 

The vertical rollers capture and stabilize the bottle, allowing accurate label placement at high speeds. This system also reduces pitch space for long wrap-around labels, keeping the machine compact. The vertical trunnion roller labeler can be used with up to 5 label applicators, applying wrap-around, front, back, neck and tamper-proof labels. Even more, the applicator’s program can store multiple presets, making it easy to switch between product lines with the touch screen

Our wine bottle labeler uses a three roller system to hold and spin the bottle as labels are applied. It has a stepper-driven indexer, which has an accuracy of about 1/32” (0.8 mm.).

With one applicator, it can apply a single label around the bottle or two labels if the reel has alternating front and back labels. 

With two applicators, the wine bottle labeler can apply the front and back labels separately. Thanks to built-in sensors for label positioning, one of these applicators can be set up for cover labeling, which lets you add information specific to different markets without getting full labels printed. This labeler can accommodate a variety of bottle sizes.

Make Your Bottle Labeling Process Easy – Work With Experts!

With so many options, labeling your bottles can get confusing. Make this process easier by contacting CTM Labeling Systems. We have local distributors work directly with you to tailor your bottle labeling machines to your product requirements, including bottle size, bottle shape, label placement and production speed.


10 things to consider before purchasing a labeling system.