A recent report by MarketsandMarkets, a worldwide marketing research firm, estimates that the cold chain market will grow to an incredible 271.3 Billion dollars by 2022.

The cold chain market includes refrigerated and frozen foods, a good part of which is in the dairy and frozen dessert categories. Growth in this market is attributable to the increasing demand for perishable food, intensifying international trade and government support for cold chain market infrastructure.

What labels do you need to compete in the cold chain market?

If you are a manufacturer in this increasingly lucrative market, you know that choosing an appropriate label for cold conditions is essential. This is especially true when dealing with a combination of refrigeration-microwaving.

Let’s look at some of the labeling technologies you can choose from for cold chain conditions. These include Chill (less than 5 Celcius) or Frozen (less than 18 Celcius) temperatures. Humidity levels and time exposed to cold also come into play.

Pressure sensitive labels

Pressure sensitive labels can be of paper type or synthetic. Paper labels aren’t recommended as humidity can permeate the label and the adhesive when the product goes between room temperature and freezing. This can cause the label to detach or wrinkle. Even a paper label with laminate can be subject to this kind of damage.

Synthetic pressure-sensitive labels have many cold chain options. These include Polypropylene and Polyester (more expensive, though) which are often used.

The appropriate label depends on your products journey to the consumer. If your label is applied at room temperature and has a few hours to adhere, then an all-temperature label, good for minimum temperature below -20 Celcius will do.   If your label is applied to a product that is quickly frozen or even applied directly to a frozen product, then that is another category of label (“cold tack” that requires a high level of tackiness and adhesive power.

Labels using hot melt adhesive

Even if the technology has been around forever, Hot melt adhesives are also considered a good for refrigeration.  They have the advantage of being considered safe by the food industry. This is because they contain no solvents and easily withstand cold temperatures. Other advantages include clarity and good adherence to almost any plastic or glass surface.

In recent years, some manufacturers have created hybrid adhesives that are a combination of hot melt and acrylic adhesives. These can be appropriate so long as the industry specifications are respected.

Shrink sleeve labels

A quick word on Shrink sleeve labels: Because of their application technique (shrunk into place on often irregular surfaces) and the robustness of the materials used, shrink sleeve labels aren’t affected by low temperatures. Materials such as PETG, OPS are quite suitable for the cold chain.

Printing is usually on the substrate and therefore is not subject to damage from freezing or scuffing.


If you are set to market a product for the cold chain and need a labeling solution, we can help! We have over 50 years of experience in product identification!