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Shrink label gives this mule a kick

From Russia by way of the U.K. comes a vodka-based drink called the Smirnoff Mule in a glass bottle with a label that's nearly as exotic as the beverage itself.

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Heublein, Inc., of Hartford, CT, began testing the unusual beverage in three unnamed U.S. on-premise markets last month. The eye-catching graphics are delivered by a full-body shrink label, from American Fuji Seal (Bardstown, KY), that's gravure-printed in six colors. The label, made of 2-mil Eastar(TM) PETG from Eastman (Kingsport, TN), was selected for its ability to shrink tightly and smoothly with good control of vertical shrink. Heublein has the bottle labeled by hand-with an assist from a shrink tunnel-and then filled and crowned by copackers. The amber bottles are produced by Owens-Brockway (Toledo, OH) in stock molds used for 12-oz returnable beer bottles. But Owens lightweights the bottle, thus making the internal volume slightly larger. That lets Heublein fill the bottle with 375 mL (12.68 oz), an amount sanctioned by law for a spirits-based product. Should the test prove successful, says Heublein's director of packaging technology, Richard Blanchard, automated labeling systems would likely be explored. That would lower the premium now paid for the elegant label, though Blanchard admits it will always be an expensive package. Blanchard adds that on-premise consumers pay about the same for the 375-mL bottle of Smirnoff Mule as they would for a premium beer.

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