Factors that affect the cost of shrink sleeve labels

Globally, more and more brands are leveraging shrink sleeve labels even if these product labels are generally 25% more expensive than traditional pressure-sensitive labels. This is likely because shrink sleeve labels offer a host of benefits. They can:
  • Enable 360-degree branding
  • Mimic the high-end look of directly printed designs
  • Wrap around various container shapes and materials
  • Allow different options for container coverage (e.g., full body, full body with tamper-evident band, or partial)
  • Withstand exposure to harsh environments
  • Increase certain buyers’ desire to purchase and willingness to pay more
  • Enable cost savings on other packaging elements (e.g., drop band closure)
  • Improve ease of recycling containers

At this point, these benefits may have already convinced you that shrink sleeve labels are worth their premium price. You may then be at the next stage of figuring out how much shrink sleeve labels will cost you. To get an accurate price estimate, you must first show your actual product container and share your brand vision with a labeling services provider. However, if you simply need a rough estimate, you can start by looking at the factors affecting the cost of a product’s shrink sleeve:

Shrink wrap film material

The two most commonly used shrink wrap film materials are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polypropylene terephthalate glycol (PET-G).

Between the two, PVC is more widely used because it is less expensive and more readily accessible, but there are concerns about its environmental impact. Because of its chlorine content, PVC releases dangerous carcinogenic gases and dioxin when it is not disposed of properly. And although PVC scrap can be recycled into roofing sheets, window frames, floor coverings, pipes, and cable insulation, among others, most US municipal consumer recycling programs do not accept PVC.

PET-G is less popular, but it has a growing market because it does not contain chlorine, making it the more eco-friendly choice. It does cost more, however, because of the complexity involved in shrinking it. Specialized steam tunnels — and in some cases, multistage hot air tunnels — are necessary to correctly sleeve PET-G shrink wrap films.

For its premium price, PET-G offers higher shrinkage (~78%) than PVC shrink wrap film (~60%), which means it will shrink well around highly contoured containers. PET-G shrink wrap film also looks clearer and more transparent than PVC.

Container shape

The per-sleeve cost will largely depend on the shape of the container that shrink sleeves will wrap. Shrink sleeve labels for common container shapes, such as the standard 12-ounce bottle or can, are less expensive since they are easier to engineer and faster to apply. On the other hand, shrink sleeves for custom-shaped containers will require more label engineering and application time, potentially increasing the per-sleeve cost.

Printing method

The two most commonly used methods for printing on shrink sleeves are flexographic (flexo) and digital.

With flexo, each shrink sleeve label design has its own printing plate. Therefore, if you have a different design for every product flavor, stock keeping unit, or other variations, you will need to have many printing plates made. The initial investment required for platemaking and the setup cost for every change of plate make flexo unsuitable for smaller printing batches. However, since flexo machines have superior throughput speed, flexo is more cost-effective for large runs. In other words, the longer the printing run, the more you are able to pay off your initial investment in platemaking and setup.

For small- to mid-sized label orders, digital label printing is the way to go since it does away with printing plates and therefore requires significantly less setup time. This is perfect if you require many sleeve designs for your multiple product variations. It is also suitable for running promotional campaigns. A good example of this is Diet Coke’s “Stay Extraordinary” campaign that released two million different bottle label designs. However, due to digital label printing’s slower production speed, this printing method may be more expensive for longer runs.

If you have elaborate label graphics, digital label printing will likely be the more cost-effective option. This is because achieving certain design elements, such as accurate flesh tone reproduction, requires highly skilled operators for flexo, but not with digital printing.


It’s important for the surface of a shrink sleeve to have a consistent coefficient of friction (COF) — the measurement of how slippery a surface is — to avoid application issues with the packaging machines. However, having consistent COF across the label can be quite challenging for shrink sleeves that do not have 100% ink coverage because printed areas of a label have lower COF than unprinted areas. To address this issue, a clear coating called slip varnish is applied over the entire label.

Adding slip varnish is more expensive for shrink sleeve labels with clear areas. This is because the shrink film has to be treated further to ensure that the slip varnish does not cause clear areas of the label to look hazy.


The more embellished your shrink sleeve label is, the more expensive the per-sleeve cost will usually be. For example, you will have to pay more to leverage design treatments, such as cold foil stamping, embossing, custom finishes, and UV metallic inks. However, such unique design treatments may help your product stand out on retail shelves, making the additional cost worthwhile.

Run size

Setting up the machines for shrink sleeving can take a lot of time and each shrink sleeve design will require machine setup. This can translate to a huge setup cost, especially if you have multiple label designs. The longer the run of each design, the more sleeves can share the setup cost, lowering the per-sleeve cost.

Partner with shrink sleeve labeling experts

With so many cost factors to consider, you may have difficulty staying within budget while still achieving your brand vision and label aesthetic and performance requirements. The good news is that the labeling specialists of Pro-Motion Industries can help you make the right decisions so you can meet both your functional and budgetary needs​.

Since 1994, we have been assisting businesses across all industries achieve eye-catching product packaging that help drive sales — and we can do the same for you, too. When you partner with us, you can leverage our labeling expertise and state-of-the-art equipment. You can then rest easy knowing that you are working with one of New Jersey’s leading labeling services providers and the go-to supply chain partner for many of our long-term clients.

Consult our label experts at 856-809-0040 today!

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