Fort Dearborn Company is a supplier of decorative prime labels to the consumer goods marketplace. It supplies the likes of shrink sleeve, roll-fed (in standard wraparound and shrink formats), pressure-sensitive and cut and stack labels to the market, printed via flexographic, rotogravure, offset and digital means. Flexible Packaging recently caught up with Gwen Chapdelaine, marketing director, Fort Dearborn Company, for insight on labeling and shrink sleeves.


Q: Can you sum up the shrink sleeve market for us?

A: We have seen continued use of full-body shrink sleeves as well as multi-packs. Use is widespread among the beverage category and continues to grow among the food, household and personal care segments.


Q: What are some of the big benefits that shrink sleeves offer compared to traditional labels?

A: Shrink sleeves allow brands to differentiate themselves on shelf by combining shape and color for 360-degree eye-catching beverage packages. This combination creates product distinction and visual appeal not achievable with other label formats. Sleeves can also be used for product protection by incorporating tamper evidence. For multi-packs, cross-merchandising and on-pack sample promotions, shrink sleeves are a cost-effective solution compared to traditional paperboard carriers and boots with overwraps.


Q: Fort Dearborn talks a lot about the development of next-generation shrink films. Can you expand on this?

A: We are dedicated to bringing customers innovative products and utilize a stage gate process for potential new product developments. We are a preferred beta testing site and new product development partners for our suppliers. In regards to next-generation shrink films, we are working on developments such as down gauging, higher shrink MDO (machine direction) films, hybrid films (co-extrusions), white film (light blocking capabilities) and films to meet APR  recycling protocols.


Q: How important is sustainability when it comes to labeling materials?

A: We still see an interest in eco-friendly/sustainable labeling materials, but since these tend to be at a premium, we have seen more interest in down gauging of label materials. We are also actively pursuing developments to improve the overall recycling profile of PET bottles, which are widely used in shrink sleeve applications. We try to engage the end user in helping us define what sustainability means to their company so that we can design and provide a label concept that matches their overall company goals.


Q: What are some of the key challenges involved with labeling and shrink sleeve production? How does Fort Dearborn help resolve those?

A: There are more steps involved with a shrink sleeve label than other label types, thus making it more challenging. We encourage our customers to get us involved upfront on a project to ensure success. With shrink sleeves, it’s critical to choose the right material for the container and to take this into consideration during the container selection process. Shrink sleeve labels also often need to include distortion of the graphics in order for the printed product to appear correctly once shrunk onto the container. Proper container sizing and line trials provide an opportunity to test for distortion. We recommend involvement with all key suppliers during the process: prepress, container, converter and application provider to eliminate unnecessary errors and waste upfront below full production. Our technical services group plays a critical role supporting customers with the application process and supplier partnerships.


Q: Are there any recent customer case studies related to shrink sleeves or labeling that you can discuss?

A: A recent example is RUNA Energy. It wanted to launch its clean energy drinks in aluminum cans, but didn’t meet the minimum quantity for purchasing pre-printed cans. Fort Dearborn Company worked with RUNA on using shrink sleeves on unprinted cans. Our graphic team got involved during the creative process to ensure that RUNA took full advantage of the 360-degree billboard that shrink sleeves offer, as well as any necessary design considerations. By understanding the clean energy drink’s branding goals and shelf appeal requirements, the label was designed along with ink and coating recommendations from the graphics team. Before the first production order, digital label samples were provided so prototypes could be created and any design tweaks could be made before the actual production runs. The final printed shrink sleeves created the shelf appeal RUNA desired with metallic inks and a matte/gloss finish for visual impact.


Fort Dearborn Company
(847) 357-9500