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Wet-strength labels: new materials and adhesives help wineries ensure their labels stay intact, in place and look great during the 'ice bucket challenge'.


While not as bad as a corked wine, having a wine label slip off, lift at the corners or wrinkle after the bottle has spent some time in an ice bucket can detract from a consumer's experience with a wine brand.

That particular risk has become increasingly rare, however, as more wineries invest in label stocks that feature special liners, adhesives and reinforced materials to ensure labels stay in place, remain legible and don't wrinkle while submerged in an ice bucket or when exposed to wet, damp conditions during bottling or shipping.

Wet-strength materials have been common in the industry for more a decade, but suppliers are now offering label materials that can spend all day in an ice bucket and still look perfect.

Trysk Print Solutions is a Seattle-based label provider that worked with paper manufacturer Wausau Coated Products in Wausau, Wis., to create a stronger wet-strength label. Stephan Martinez, Trysk founder and CEO, said he had been hearing complaints about wet-strength labels that were still failing, especially on sparkling wine bottles. "What really starts the ball rolling on defects is water on the inside of the label," he told Wines & Vines.

Martinez said he went to Wausua and pushed them to develop something even stronger for the wine industry. "We told them, 'If you give us something better, we'll sell the lights out of it,"' he said. "The first several years was pushing them, letting them know there's a need there."

That led to four years of research and trials as the company perfected a proprietary process to treat the label material to be water resistant and create an adhesive known as Aqua Loc 100. Trysk had the license to be the sole supplier for six months and dubbed the new material Ice Breaker. Martinez said it's not a new paper but a new lamination process that can make any material impervious to water. "It's everything we hoped it would be, and I'm serious that's pretty rare for a project that took so long," he said. "We are all collectively very proud of it."

Wausau Coated now sells the same material under the Ever Opaque brand, and a few other label suppliers sell the material under different brands. A few other label printers also have developed their own brands of different wet-strength label materials by working with manufacturers.

Run the bucket test

Before selecting any material, conducting some trials is a good way to evaluate the different wet-strength materials on the market. "One of the things people still need to remember is it's still a paper label going on glass," said Travis Pollard, vice president of sales and marketing for the printer Paragon Label in Petaluma, Calif.

Pollard recommended wineries conduct a simple ice bucket trial to determine what they're looking for when it comes to wet strength. Place the label sample on a bottle and submerge it in a 50-50 mix of water and ice and watch how it performs over 15 minutes, 45 minutes and longer.

Some labels can start to weaken over longer stretches of time, while others may change slightly in appearance while leaving all the label information intact. For most products, maintaining label integrity for an hour or so should be sufficient when one considers these are mainly going on bottles of white and rose wines. "If you're a consumer and you opened a white wine or rose and it's not finished in 45 minutes, you're not doing your job as a consumer," Pollard quipped.

Dan Welty is the digital print manager for Multi Color Label, which previously had been serving the wine industry as Collotype Label. He said there are four main options to protect a pressure-sensitive label from water exposure.

Wet-strength labels are impregnated with a liquid solution at the paper mill and resist saturation longer than untreated paper. A "water barrier" label has a layer of plastic between the paper and adhesive. "For paper labels, this is the optimum solution for labels placed in ice buckets," he said.

The two other options are labels produced with clear or white synthetic materials that can be used as label stock and applying a clear gloss or matte lamination on the outside of paper labels. He said both of these aren't as popular in the wine industry because of "the aesthetic preference of papers rather than plastics."

The adhesive side of the equation

Avery Dennison is one of the largest label manufacturers in the world and offers a variety of wet-strength labels. Jeff Greenlief, product manager for wine, spirits and craft beer products, said the often-overlooked element of these types of products is the adhesive. "It really starts with our adhesive system. We initially started it with wine and beer because both are filled under cold and wet conditions," he said.

Common problems such as edge lift or total failure can usually be traced back to the adhesive. The company offers four adhesives with its line of wet-strength labels, and Greenlief said many of the firm's winery clients even use such labels on red wines to ensure the labels can withstand any exposure to moisture during storage or shipping. "Brand owners want to perpetuate an experience with a customer, and a big part of that is not just the shelf appeal but the appeal of the label while they're consuming the wine," he said.

Jean Wilson, the wine, spirits and craft beverage market development manager for UPM Raflatac Americas, also stressed that effective wet strength comes from the adhesive. She said UPM Raflatac's "wine-grade" adhesive is an acrylic compound that after one to three days will completely "wet out" on the bottle and adhere during wet or freezing conditions.

Wilson added that "welded" labels are also commonly used in the wine industry. "That is a wine face with a thin polyolefin attached to the back of the wine face," she said. "This makes a super strong wine label that will stand up to difficult conditions."

Such labels can also be useful when placed over the bottle seam, which can allow water to get behind the back of a label. "If that happens, the weld prevents the water from seeping through the back of the label and saturating the label, making it weak, discolored and likely to come off of the bottle."

UPM Raflatac worked with a material supplier to develop its Silverac WSA material, which is a wet-strength metalized paper. "Previously this type of material was only available as a cut-and-stack, glue-applied label," Wilson said. "We worked with the supplier to test different base sheets that were strong enough to stand up to die-cutting and have high-end print characteristics and develop this product jointly and delivered to the market a couple of years ago."


Wines & Vines checked with label stock manufacturers about new and existing wet-strength label materials for the wine industry. A few printers or label 'convertors' also have worked with paper companies to produce their own brands of wet-strength labels.


Monadnock's Envi Enhanced Barrier label with EarthCoating is "the next generation" of moisture-resistant label protection according to the manufacturer. The labels are available in 100% post-consumer-waste fiber, bright white smooth stock and a virgin fiber, bright white vellum stock. Monadnock entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with a materials supplier for a special coating to produce high-performance labels that contain less plastic and adhesive "yet offer improved opacity, brightness and wet-strength."


Labeltronix offers a wet-strength material it calls Artie Shield. The self-adhesive label is available in five different styles on uncoated white or black paper. The material can be finished with hot foil stamping, embossing or other features.


Green Bay Packaging produces pressure-sensitive label stock and recently introduced its wet-strength stock called Polar White. The smooth, white paper has a barrier coating on the back that the supplier says eliminates the need for polylaminate on the back, reducing the amount of plastic used in the label material.


Technicote's newest wet-strength label is 70-pound Solar White Felt, which is a thicker facestock with a felt finish. The company also offers several coated and one uncoated 60-pound "designer" papers that range from the classic Estate to brighter white stocks and others with special features to enhance die cutting.



Multi-Color Label's Killer White material is a water barrier label that, according to the manufacturer, offers "brilliant ice bucket performance" as well as the "tactile and visual appeal" of an uncoated paper label.


Wassau Coated's Ever Opaque is available in a variety of stocks and can be customized with die cuts and different label shapes.


UPM Raflatac's Silverac WSA facestock can withstand a 24-hour ice bucket test and is now available as a pressure-sensitive label with a range of adhesives and liners.


Trysk's Ice Breaker with Aqua Loc 100 can be used with a variety of different materials and finishes. The company reports labels can be applied at temperatures as low as 25[degrees] F, and the labels withstand temperatures as low as -10[degrees] F.


Avery Dennison's Aqua Stick labels are designed to maintain label integrity at 33[degrees]-38[degrees] F and remain in the same position despite bottle condensation. The Aqua Stick portfolio is comprised of 12 different stocks. The company also produces a line of welded labels.



Neenah Packaging's entire Estate portfolio of labels have wet-strength characteristics. The uncoated labels are available as glue applied or pressure sensitive and range from "a rich white with a subtle surface" to black. Other options include felt and a hammered Martele.


Arconvert's Ultra WS range of labels are "highly opaque" when damp and do not crinkle, move or lift when exposed to condensation or in an ice bucket.

The Wines & Vines Product Focus feature is not intended to provide a definitive listing of all available products in a particular segment or provide any comparative analysis, but rather serve as an overview of what's new or available and also of potential interest to readers as determined by the magazines editorial staff.

Caption: Multi-Color Label

Caption: Avery Dennison

Caption: The creator of the above label, Avery Dennison, says wet strength starts with the adhesive.

Caption: Neenah Paper (top) and Trysk Print Solutions (bottom) offer wet-strength characteristics.
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Title Annotation:PRODUCT FOCUS
Comment:Wet-strength labels: new materials and adhesives help wineries ensure their labels stay intact, in place and look great during the 'ice bucket challenge'.(PRODUCT FOCUS)
Author:Adams, Andrew
Publication:Wines & Vines
Date:Oct 1, 2016
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