Sleeve label dresses exotic Chai teas (sidebar)

Chai label ‘steams’ to bottle

Full-body sleeve labels are usually shrunk onto bottles in a tunnel that directs hot air to do the job. For Celestial Seasonings’ Mountain Chai, however, labels are shrink-applied with steam.

The unusual process is completed by Ally Labeling and Packaging on equipment manufactured by Fuji Seal Europe bv, formerly Intersleeve bv, Holland. The company is part of the American Fuji Seal (Bardstown, KY) Global Network.

“The equipment is fairly new,” says Ally owner Tom Uhl, who explains that the machine is now being used for other new label applications, as well. “With steam, you get a very soft wrap, the colors on the label stay brighter, and [for Mountain Chai], as long as the label is adhered to the bottle’s base and bottom, the label won’t distort.”

For the Mountain Chai label, Ally operators set a PP bottle on a plastic puck that’s mounted to a table. A flat label tube blank is manually pulled out of a case, opened and placed onto the bottle. The bottom of the label descends below the bottle’s base, around the puck. This label “overhang” is important because when the operator carefully lifts the labeled bottle out from the puck, he or she briefly holds it by an industrial heat gun that shrinks the overlap portion of the label around the bottle’s base, covering much of the transparent bottom. This step forms a bull’s-eye at the bottom of the bottle. It does not distort the label.

More importantly, Uhl explains, “it holds the label in place as it’s conveyed through the steam tunnel.” The 10’-L, 10”-H tunnel uses 10 copper lines, each of which contains hundreds of pinholes that direct steam “toward specific spots on the bottle. We operate a separate boiler to create steam for the machine,” he says. Temperatures reach their hottest point, about 212?F, in the center of the tunnel, as bottles pass through the 10’ section in seconds before conveying through to manual case-packing stations. Labeled bottles are then shipped to Celestial’s leased facility in Boulder, CO, for filling.

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