Side-by-side of a wrap-around label vs. front and back label.

Wrap-Around Labels vs. Front-and-Back Product Labels: Which Should You Choose?

Should you use wrap-around labels or front-and-back labels on your containers? While we often think of them as being used on specific container shapes, both label designs work on round or rectangular containers. So, what are the advantages of these two labeling methods, and which is better for your products?

The Advantages of Wrap-Around Labels

On round containers, the principal display panel (PDP) must cover 40% of the total side area of the package (based on the circumference of the container multiplied by the height). Depending on the type of product you sell, additional information (such as nutrition facts or statements of origin) must go on a specific side of a rectangular container. If you’re labeling a round container, the PDP usually goes on the left side of the label, followed by the rest of the label information.

Orientation

Orientation is only important on wrap-around product labels when applying multiple labels on a round container. For example, if you’re applying labels to the body and neck of a bottle, you want both to line up so the front of the neck is in line with the front display panel. When only applying a single label, the container doesn’t need to be rotated before label application. With rectangular containers, you only need the label to orient with the box opening. This reduces the complexity of the labeling machine, and therefore reduces setup costs.

Coverage

The key advantage of wrap-around labels is coverage. This maximizes space on the container’s label area, which helps squeeze in information on heavily regulated products, like pharmaceuticals. With new regulations increasing the amount of information on product labels, the added space of a wrap-around label is invaluable. It lets you create text that is easier to read while helping you create a cohesive, clean look across the label.

However, you don’t always have to maximize label size. For example, a front label with a small wrap-around side can add container-specific information, like expiration dates and barcodes. If your containers are also used for shipping or logistics tracking, a wrap-around label lets you add codes on multiple surfaces for easier scanning.

Shrink sleeve labels offer more coverage than wrap-around labels, but they’re expensive to implement, especially for small-scale production. Unlike shrink-wrap labels, pressure-sensitive labels don’t have to be plastic label material, which gives you maximum coverage while ensuring better compatibility with recycling programs. Distortion is also less of a problem with pressure-sensitive labels, which is critical for clarity on your labels.

Full wrap-around labels on cans appear similar to pre-printed aluminum cans. While printed cans must be ordered by the truckload, brights (blank cans) can be ordered by the pallet. This makes them a viable option for craft brewing and soda manufacturing.

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The Advantages of Front & Back Labels

On rectangular containers, the principal display panel must cover one side of the package. The back label can be used for everything else, including bar codes, instructions for use, and more. There are many ways you can utilize this separation to improve the look of your products.

Using two labels on a glass bottle reduces label coverage, helping customers see what’s inside without using clear label materials.

Versatility

Information panel requirements are usually specific to each market. Using a front-and-back design lets you swap out the back label with the correct information panel. If you make a single category of product in different formulations, you can use a print engine to add the formulation to a uniform front label and apply a unique label to the back. For example, for a line of jellies, you can print the flavor on a general-purpose front label and then include a label with the correct ingredient list and Nutrition Facts label on the back.

Defining space on rectangular containers is easier with separate labels since you don’t need to take into account labeling and printing variances around corners. As long as the label fits the side, all of the information is readable.

Problems with skew and flagging increase as the length of the label increases. Spreading information across two labels decreases label length.

If you use two labels on separate webs, you can use different label materials and shapes for the front and back labels. For example, we’re seeing a trend toward labels with unique shapes and textures to help brands stand out on the shelves. However, die-cut labels and unique coatings are expensive. By using front-and-back product labels, you only need to pay extra for coatings and die cuts for the front label (using cheaper coatings for the back label).

Conforming to Unusual Shapes

On large containers, splitting up the surface into smaller labels helps you stay within the label size limits of your print engine and cut costs by letting you stick to standard label sizes.

Additionally, it’s easier to apply front and back labels on complicated shapes. A tamp blow system uses air to push the label onto uneven or recessed surfaces. By comparison, wrap-around labels cover too much real estate to be applied without wrinkling.

How Does Labeling Equipment Affect My Label Choice?

All things being equal, factors like label skew and indexing may give one label format an advantage over another. However, there are ways to work around these problems, letting you use either type of label.

A well-designed label applicator can mitigate skew and flagging of long wrap-around product labels. At the extreme end, there’s the option like our pail labeler. This machine’s design handles the challenges encountered with labeling large commercial pails. The pail itself is held in by large guide rails, while a combination of O-rings, muffin fans, and a felt wiper keep the label from shifting during application. This ensures the perfect application of large labels across angled surfaces.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, our Tabletop Vial Wrap labeling solution is a semi-automatic labeling system that applies labels to small round items, like chapsticks. Applying labels to small round bottles takes a lot of precision, so utilizing a labeler provides consistent quality control while maintaining a high-speed production line — and it fits on a table to take up less floor space.

Our wine bottle labeler supports three labeling options. If your machine uses wrap-around labeling, it’s easy to convert to front and back labels printed on the same web. An indexer positions the bottle for both labels. Alternatively, you can upgrade to a system with two applicators. This lets you use separate webs for the front and back labels, increasing labeling speed.

We Have the Equipment You Need for Your Retail Packaging

Whether you decide on wrap-around or front-and-back labels, CTM Labeling Systems has the equipment you need to get them on your products. Contact us to be put in touch with your local distributor who will work with you to find a labeling system that fits your containers, your production system, and your budget!

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