Vial Labeling: Labeling Solutions for Even the Smallest Packaging

Vial Labeling: Labeling Solutions for Even the Smallest Packaging

Everything from single-dose pharmaceuticals to perfume samples gets packaged in vials, which creates challenges when it’s time to label them. 

How do you make tiny labels legible? What information needs to be printed on them? Where do you even find a vial labeling machine? Here’s what you need to know to plan your vial labeling system, from label requirements to equipment choices. 

Which Containers are Considered Vials? 

The word “vial” usually brings to mind small test tubes used in a laboratory. However, when it comes to packaging, this category covers any small round-sided container, such as an ampoule or micro-tube, whether it’s a plastic or glass vial

The category covers a wide range of product packaging, including perfume samples, single servings of alcohol, energy shots, concentrates, essential oils, liquid flavorings, injectable medicines, specimen samples and more. 

With so much variation, the labeling of these tiny containers comes with some unique challenges. Not only do you need machinery that can handle small containers and labels, you also need labels that fit correctly while displaying all of the required information for your products. (This requires a good knowledge of label regulations, design techniques and production requirements.) 

Labeling Differences for Small Containers 

With so little space to print information, it’s impossible to meet every legal requirement for labeling on a vial itself. Fortunately, there are exemptions and workarounds written into labeling regulations to help you create compliant labels with the space you have available. 

Injectable Pharma Drug Vial Labeling

In 2015, the FDA changed the use of dosage labeling verbiage on pharmaceutical packaging. Now, for containers that hold one dose of medicine, “Single-Use” has replaced “Single Dose.” 

The 2015 changes also replaced “Single Dose” with “Single-Patient-Use” when referring to a multi-dose container that should only be used by one patient. Additionally, a discard statement was implemented, unless a drug can be used 28 days after opening. 

Along with the dosage and discard statement, the FDA mandated that the drug name, United States Pharmacopia (USP) monograph, and the amount of fluid in the container must be on the label. (Other required information can be placed on the box that holds the vial or included in a pamphlet.) 

Of course, there is a difference between legally required information and best practices to ensure proper use. You can learn more about choices you can make for easier drug label interpretation here. 

Food Vial Labeling Requirements

Exemptions for food labels are covered by Section 21 CFR § 1.24 of the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR). If a package contains less than ½ ounce or ½ fluid ounce of food, it doesn’t require nutrition labeling. Otherwise, all of the FDA requirements for food labeling still apply, including product names and content sizes.

Cosmetic Labeling Guidelines

Cosmetic labeling is controlled by the Fair Packaging and Labeling Program as part of the Fair Packaging and Trade Act. Unlike nutrition regulations, exemptions for fragrances and other cosmetic samples are vague. By law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has the final word on what should and shouldn’t be on a small cosmetics container. 

In practice, as long as the name, size and brand are on the vial, everything else that is usually required on the container’s information panel can be moved to the outer container. (Of course, it’s good practice to include allergy information on the vial to prevent allergic reactions.) 

Making Small Labels That Are Legible 

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for designing a readable label for a vial. In general, a high contrast design with a solid color background, a medium weight font, and a mix of upper and lower case letters provide the best legibility. 

This is where it pays to have good graphic designers working on your vial label. But, even with the best design, it’s critical to have a high-resolution print to make information as clear as possible. This applies to both the initial graphics print by the label company and any printing you do at the labeling machine

If you want to make it easy for customers to get more product information than will fit on the label, consider including a website URL and a barcode they can scan with their phone. This gives them a direct route to the product’s information page. For potentially hazardous items, consider adding a way for users to quickly check the MSDS. 

What Should I Look For in a Vial Labeling Machine? 

Size is what makes a vial different from other containers. Whether you’re looking for a semi-automatic or fully automatic vial labeler, it needs to be able to handle the containers and labels you want to use. 

Vial Labeling Systems for Short Product Runs

When you need to make short product runs, or you need someone to do a final quality control check before labeling on the production line, it doesn’t make sense to use a high-speed machine. For these instances, our semi-automatic tabletop vial wrap custom labeling system is a great option that supports labels as small as ½ inch by ½ inch. 

By swapping out the star wheel, you can label different sizes of containers, from 0.313 to 2.5 inches in diameter. It can still label up to 50 containers per minute, depending on your production setup. That means your workers will never have to wait on this labeler while they’re loading it. 

High-Quality Print and High-Speed Vial Labeling Systems

Need high-quality printing to create custom labels for each vial? The 3600a-PA series printer applicator supports up to 600 dpi for fine detail. When equipped with a Sato print engine, it can handle labels as small as 1 x ¼ inch. Use a Zebra print engine, and this labeler can handle ½ x ½ inch labels. 

The 3600a-PA label printer supports serialization and barcode printing, including EAN 8/13, Code 39, Code93, UPC A/E, Code 128, 2 of 5, Maxicode, DataMatrix, PDF417, MicroPDF, CODABAR, MSI and POSTNET standards. Identical codes can be printed on all labels, or the machine can communicate with the rest of your OT system, adding serial numbers and other information to each code. 

Looking for an automatic vial labeling machine that can handle high speeds? The 360a High-Speed Label Applicator can merge, air blow or tamp blow labels onto containers. When using any of these application methods, this machine supports labels as small as ¾ by ¾ inches. The 360a can apply up to 2,100 inches of labels per minute. 

No matter which label applicator you choose to go with, you’re guaranteed to have higher efficiency and less downtime on the production line than if you were utilizing manual labeling machines.

Big or Small, We have the Labeling Systems That Fit Your Labeling Needs 

Whether you’re in the pharmaceutical industry, cosmetics industry, or any other vertical that utilizes vials for product packaging, CTM Labeling Systems can provide excellent labeling solutions for your business.

We have local distributors who will find a solution that fits your individual situation, containers and production needs. Reach out today!