Sleeve labels: A market update on a dynamic technology

Asia is at the forefront: AWA global sleeve label market by region 2017 (Source: AWA)(Photo Credit: AWA Alexander Watson Associates BV)

The sleeve label in its various formats – heat shrink, stretch sleeve, ROSO MD sleeve, and RFS MD sleeve – has gained a significant presence in the global label market, and competes aggressively with pressure-sensitive label technologies in many areas of primary product labelling – particularly the world’s food and beverage markets.

Written by Ann Hirst-Smith


Alexander Watson Associates’ new research report AWA Global Sleeve Label Market Study 2018 provides an update on the current market and technology status, and confirms how strongly sleeve labelling has established itself in a relatively short timescale. The study details the subject by label format, materials, technologies, and regional volumes, with particular emphasis on changing market structure and trends within the sector.

Third largest labelling technology

Today claiming around 18% of the overall world label market, sleeve labelling is now a maturing technology, but growth is still strong, at an annual 5.5%. It is now the third largest labelling technology globally, behind pressure-sensitive and traditional glue-applied labels, representing a volume of 11,213 million sqm in 2017.

Sleeve labels are a film-based format, and AWA’s research shows that, across all the technologies, PVC is the preferred substrate, taking more than half of the market, with the more environmentally-friendly PET-G, taking second place.

The global sleeve label market by format 2017- the greatest part (88%) goes to heat shrink sleeves labels (Source: AWA)

Heat shrink sleeves

The advent of the complex contoured plastic container brought a distinctly new meaning to retail shelf stand-out — particularly for on-the-go single-portion drinks; and it is therefore hardly surprising that, today, most sleeve volumes are in the versatile labelling technology that such complex container shapes demand: heat shrink sleeves, which uniquely offer a 75% shrinkage or distortion capability. The top-to-toe container heat shrink sleeve also offers the additional ability to provide a much-valued tamper-evident closure seal over the top aperture, as part of the label, and can feature a perforated seam for sleeve label removal for container recycling after use. Heat shrink sleeves claim around 88% of total sleeve label usage, and a 66% share of total sleeve volumes in the beverage market, and a 19% share of food-related applications.

Stretch sleeves

Stretch sleeve label systems, with labels applied in tubular form are claimed to have a substantially-lower carbon footprint than heat shrink sleeves as well as offering lower costs. They represent 8% of current global demand by sleeve label format.

Roll-fed sleeve systems

Roll Fed Shrink (RFS) and “roll-on-shrink-on” (ROSO is a trade mark of Jindal) MD shrink sleeves, delivered on the roll in printed flat webs, shrink only in the machine direction, and together claim just 5% of the total sleeving market.

Geographical markets

The largest geographical market for the sleeve label format is the Asia Pacific region, with an estimated 65% share of the global sleeve label demand with China the largest single country user. It is also the ‘home’ market for heat shrink TD sleeve labels, with the initial development of the technology having been based in Japan, which is now itself a mature market for sleeve technology.

Europe is the second-largest regional user of sleeve label formats, with around 19% of the global market – and estimated to have grown by 5.5% in 2017 over the prior year. North America –  an established market for heat shrink TD sleeve labels –  is the third-largest consumer of sleeve labels, with a volume in 2017 of 1,277 million square metres or 11% of global demand and as with Europe and Asia, is estimated to have grown by 5.7% in 2017.

Regional demand for sleeve labels by format 2017 (Source: AWA)

Other current geographical growth areas for sleeves are South America, India, and – to a lesser extent – Eastern Europe. Overall, AWA forecast that, between 2018-2020, the global sleeve label market will grow at a CAGR of 5.5%, with heat shrink sleeves continuing to dominate growth.

The AWA Global Sleeve Label Market Study 2018 is AWA’s fifth full assessment of one of the world’s most dynamic label technologies and method of product decoration. This is continuing to evolve at all points of the value chain from resin manufacture, through film manufacture and converting practices, in terms of innovative engineering solutions for label application, and through an increasing understanding of the benefits of combining high-quality graphics with container geometries on FMCG packaging.

This article was first published in NarrowWebTech print issue 3-2018, available in our Online Shop!

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