Should Containers Be Labeled Before or After They’re Filled?

Should Containers Be Labeled Before or After They’re Filled?

Labeling systems are a key part of any product packaging line, but at which stage should the label be applied? It all depends on what kind of product you’re selling. Here are some factors to consider when you’re trying to determine when a container should be labeled.

General considerations

The key determinant in when to label depends on when your product’s container has a clean, dry surface. This ensures that the label will adhere properly and survive any further processing.

Your best time to label will depend on what kind of product you sell and which labeling requirements you’re bound by. Consider when the product container is most likely to be dry and clean, and whether a label could be damaged by temperature changes or spillage.

Most companies label products after the container has been filled. This is particularly important when you’re creating labels that include a best-by date.

Hot containers and labeling

Many food products use heat sterilization to inhibit bacterial growth. This is typically accomplished by using “hot fillers,” a process in which containers are filled with extremely hot liquid and sealed. The liquid comes into contact with all interior surfaces, which sanitizes the interior. The container is then cooled and dried.

Hot filling methods are typically used on glass bottles and heat-resistant cans. Because the containers are dried and cooled on the line, they are usually compatible with most types of label stock. The most important consideration is choosing paper which will remain stable in warm conditions. Labels can be applied before or after filling, but be aware that products can drip during filling..

On the other hand, if you’re using steam-based retort processing, you’ll want to wait to apply the labels. The humidity and heat are not conducive to precise labeling. It’s best to wait until the products are filled, cleaned, dried and cooled to label your containers.

Cold containers and labeling

Cold products also prevent a challenge, since it can interfere with the adhesive. The adhesive becomes saturated with moisture from the air, and they’re less pliable than they would be at warmer temperatures. If you’re bottling cold products prone to condensation, make sure your product line includes an air knife. Air knives blow away moisture to provide a clean, dry surface for label application.

Finally, make sure you choose an adhesive designed for extremely cold temperatures. This helps ensure the product label stays intact during handling and consumption.

Choosing the right type of labeling machine for your product labeling line can be a challenge. Fortunately, Quadrel has dozens of labeling solutions. No matter which kind of product you create or labeling specifications you must adhere to, there’s sure to be a system to support your needs. We’re also happy to create custom labeling solutions upon request. Reach out to our team today to learn how our labeling systems can meet your production and packaging requirements.