Business owner doing calculations to figure cost of custom product labels.

Factors That Affect the Cost of Custom Product Labels

Any producer of consumer packaged goods is familiar with analyzing production costs, because these costs ultimately affect the final pricing of the product. Custom label printing is one of the important factors in the equation. (Things like label size, print method, required tooling and the number of colors you use are all factors that will influence the unit label price.)

Many aspects of the label printing and application process can be customized to fit your production needs, which leaves you with several choices to make when you’re preparing a new label design. You may find that you have extra costs associated with label materials and processes you don’t need, or materials that won’t work with your production system and packaging needs. So, how do you make the right choices to lower costs and get reliable, affordable labels?

What Do Your Labels Need to Do?

There are several choices to make when ordering product labels, but by selecting only the features you need, you can keep costs down. Before you commit, ask yourself what your ultimate goals are for your labels.

How long does the label need to last?

Weather and UV-resistant materials cost more, but they also protect labels from fading and peeling.

Does it need to meet regulatory requirements?

Adding features like tamper-proof adhesives increases costs, but can be required to meet safety regulations. 

What environment will the container be stored and used in?

Moisture, heat and cold can damage cheaper materials and cause problems with adhesives.

Do you want to add something to the label to help it stand out?

Full color printing and bright face stocks cost more, but may be worth the increased price if they draw attention to your packaging.

Do you need to print on your labels?

If you use a print-and-apply machine, you need labels that can absorb ink or will react to thermal printing. Direct thermal printing is cheaper than thermal transfer printing, but the label may darken or fade over time, depending on the circumstances. 

Options for Custom Label Face Stock

The bulk of a label is made from the central layer, known as face stock, making it one of the largest factors in labeling cost. While paper labels usually cost less than plastic film, these materials often overlap because there are hundreds of face stocks available that cover a wide range of price points. 

Once you’ve put together your list of requirements, go over the top choices with your label company. You may be able to sacrifice one small feature or detail to bring down the total cost of your order, or upgrade to a stronger material with little affect on the total label cost.

Product Label Adhesive Choices

While you can cut corners in other areas, choosing the right adhesive will make or break your label application system. 

However, you may be able to revise your production system to accommodate cheaper glues, bringing down labeling cost. For example, if your labeling station follows a liquid filling station, you may be contending with condensation. Instead of using water-compatible glues, you could add an air knife to wipe off containers before labeling.

Label Design and Printing Methods

You want your products to look good, but more colors means more printing steps. The best way to reduce your costs is to work with your printer on the label design from the start. They can make suggestions that conserve ink and simplify printing.

Of course, accuracy costs extra. Most companies need the color of their logos to be exact, but you can work around limitations for other parts of your label. Digital printing costs less than flexography, but it has a limited color palette, and pantone colors are extremely accurate, but CMYK printing is cheaper.

Additionally, jobs using CMYK printing can be bundled together, while Pantone requires colors to be mixed for each job. This makes CMYK cheaper, especially for small orders. 

Fluorescent, metallic and other specialty inks cost more than standard inks. If you want a flashy label, it may be cheaper to use metallic face stock, leaving parts of it exposed to get the look you want.

Optimal Order Sizes for Label Printing

There is typically the same setup fee no matter how many labels you order, so it’s cheaper to print large orders (and shipping costs per label are usually cheaper for large orders, too).

While you may not have the storage space or product demand for a million labels, a little creative design can go a long way in helping you bulk up your orders. For example, let’s say your company makes jams and jellies. You could print a product label for every flavor you offer. However, it may be easier to print a standard front label with a printable section to add the flavor. 

By limiting label coverage, customers can see what’s inside the jar. That means you don’t have to depend as much on label design to attract these customers to your product. On the back, you can add a product-specific label with the correct ingredients and nutrition information. Now you have one label you can order in large quantities, and you’ve almost halved the total number of labels you need to keep on hand.

Product Label Spool Sizes

The more spools you use, the more material is needed for each label, which means higher costs. You can usually get better rates by ordering the largest spools your labeling machine supports. You may also get a better deal by ordering standard spool sizes that the printer keeps in stock. 

Is It Worth Paying for Order Tests?

In short, yes…order tests are worth it. 

There are many factors at play that can keep the finished label from looking and functioning like your projected design. For example, physical labels often don’t look the same as what’s on your screen. Computer monitors use RGB to create color, while printing uses CMYK or Pantone. This difference can result in subtle color differences between a proposed label design and the finished product. 

Most graphics programs have ways to emulate CMYK on your screen, but they aren’t 100% accurate. Metallic foils and other unusual label stocks are hard to emulate virtually, further distancing the look of a real label from a virtual one.

Does the label work on your product and with your production system? It’s better to find out now if the labels want to flag during application, fall off in storage, or leave ink on customers’ hands. A short run print lets you test the function and durability of your new labels before you make them part of regular production. 

How Do Label Applicators Fit Into My Labeling Choices?

The labeling equipment you choose determines the size and placement of your labels. There are several options, including multipurpose machines and container-specific label applicators that address common labeling problems. Here are a few examples.

With a 360a loose loop label printer and applicator, you can print information on each label, making it easy to alter designs for different products. It’s also handy for adding serial numbers, best by dates and other information specific to each container.

Want more flexibility? As the name implies, our front back wrap labeler can switch between wrap labeling and front back labeling. It can be set up with conveyors ranging from 2.3 to 18 inches wide and between 6 and 12 feet long, so it fits almost anywhere. This flexibility doesn’t just let you cover multiple product lines with one machine. It also gives you more choices for label designs, so you can choose the most cost effective method for each container.

Are you looking for ways to put more labels on your containers? Our bottle labeling system is set up so modules can be added for multiple labels. This gives you the choice of wrap, front and back, neck and lid labels. With this flexibility, you can choose between simple, high-coverage layouts or spread-out labeling that lets customers see what’s inside the bottle.

CTM Labeling Can Make Your Product Look Great and Reduce Label Pricing

When you need a high quality labeling system that fits your labels and your production system, contact CTM Labeling Systems. Our local distributors will help you set up a system that can handle any label and any container size, from small vials to industrial pails. 

Not sure what the future holds? Our machines can be upgraded with modules to add new features as you need them!