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Wrap-Around Sleever: Cardboard Sleeve Packaging Automation

ÉLITER Digital Marketing Team
Any reminder of possible infringement is welcomed
Jan 2022


In this article elaborated by ÉLITER, we are going to talk about the variety of sleeve packaging, its application and the industries where they present and as well as our sleeve packaging automation solutions.

Cardboard Sleeve: Eco-Friendly Package with Fine Presentation

The sleeve is of one of the most commonly seen kinds of packages, shall you take a talk around the supermarket and especially on the shelves of ready meal, prepared-food, and those yogurts, prepared-pizza you can find on the refrigerated shelves. The sleeve is a well-welcomed type of package due to its nice presentation and environmentally-economic facts in terms of saving package material.

After all, while considering the product cost, manufacturers in food industries, in order to stand out in today’s competitive market, must also create an impressive and awesome first image so that customers’ attention is captured at the first glance on the shelf. Packaging Sleeves always tend to increase brand value and the perceived quality of the product. In this case, understanding the features of sleeve packaging and its packaging automation can be a key factor to your branding success and streamline the production process and cost.

Wrap-Around Sleeve Packaging

—– Examples of Sleeve Packaging Products —–


ESTRENA Wraparound Sleever

Innovation in Cardboard Sleeve Packaging Automation

Taking advantage of the emerging and fast-growing ready meal market and development of sleeve packaging in China, ÉLIER – a Huang Company, is now introducing to the market the ESTRENA Wraparound Sleever which is the very first fully automatic wrap-around sleever for sleeve packaging automation solution.

ESTRENA is a fully automatic wraparound sleever that is capable of the sleeve packaging automation of a single container such as a tray or tin can, or multipack products (cluster) such as dairy cups or tin cans in multiple rows, lines, and layers. It is featured by:

  • Fully servo driven and continuous motion operation
  • Excellent output up to 150 PPM
  • Ergonomic and compact design for space-saving
  • Large range of formats covered with easy and fast format size changing
  • Connectivity to the case packer or shrink wrapper, as well as front-end packaging machinery

Automatic Wrap Around Sleever - ELITER Packaging Machinery




I. What is Cardboard Sleeve / Paperboard Sleeve Packaging?

The sleeve is a versatile, cost-effective shape and style of packaging which refers to the situation where a piece of cardboard or paper wraps around the product (a single tray, a multipack of yogurt (cluster pack), ready-meal, etc) and finally forms a packaged product of succinct appearance yet the impressive branding capability. Sellers can brand on sleeves spending less packaging cost than what it would cost with a custom box.

The sleeve is not like a carton or a box that has closure panels, dust flaps, or closing tucks. The sleeve bears no ends or tops. The sleeve can be customized just like any other kind of packaging and the seller can utilize the surface to put branding elements, images, information, and most importantly – make the product more attractive.

Sleeve Ready Meal Packaging
A sample of ready meal sleeve packaging

Until this stage the impression may have stroke into your mind that the sleeve packaging is always related to the food industry, however, the sleeve can be also applied on items such as soap, confectionery, and cosmetics. In the following, we are showing some examples of sleeves packaging used in industries rather than the food.

Sleeve packaging on different products

—– Sleeves Packaging on Different Products —–

II. Variety of Sleeve Packaging

Though as one of the simplest packaging, the cardboard sleeve or paperboard sleeve does have some variations based on its style (whether there are gaps to secure the product, or it is self-locked, or sealed by glue and subsequently the positions where it is glue-sealed). Since there is no such official standard to define what exactly the terminology is for each variation of sleeves, here we’d give our own definitions based on previously mentioned features.

II.I. Ordinary Sleeve Packaging

By this terminology, we are referring to the sleeve without any gaps that secure the product. For these features, ordinary sleeves are usually applied on the square or rectangle-shaped products, or say, most commonly applied on ready meals that are loaded in trays.

ready meal sleeve packaging

We are quite sure that you must have seen these kinds of packaging when you are taking a walk in supermarket as Carrefour, Plaza Día, Mercadona, EROSKI, Lidle, TESCO, etc… and they might be: a tray of prepared pasta or Lasagna, fried rice, fresh food, salad, etc…

II.II. Sleeves with Gaps (Cap Apertures)

The sleeve packagings with gaps are usually made for the purpose of securing the products, and especially, those with round fringes or of round shapes and the edges of which go through the gaps(or cap apertures) so as to be secured by the sleeve. This type of sleeve packaging is widely used on dairy products. Recall the multipack yogurt / cluster pack that you have seen on the shelf in the supermarket and you will get an idea about what we are referring to.

yogurt sleeve packaging

II.III. Edge-Locked (Self-Locked) Sleeve and Glue-Sealed Sleeve

The primary difference between the edge-locked sleeve and the glue-sealed sleeve is how the sleeve packaging is finally formed. The former carries some tucks (Lock Tabs) on one edge and on the other there are apertures (Lock Slots) that are going to be inserted by the tucks thus to form a securely completed sleeve packaging. Hereby we are putting a layout as an example for your understanding.

1x3x1 Yogurt cups in sleeve packaging


Glue-Sealed Sleeve is easier to be understood just as how it is named. At the bottom, the two edges of the sleeve cardboard or paperboard are sealed together by the glue-flap so as to form the final package, just like those we have referred to in the previous chapters.

II.IV. Some Other Special Sleeve Designs


i. Neck-Through Multipack / Cluster Wraps

The neck-through multipack / cluster wraps is a special variation of packaging sleeves
and is typically used on beverages. A multipack of beverage is wrapped
by the sleeve yet with the bottlenecks left outside.

ii. Over-the-Top Multipack / Cluster Wraps

The Over-the-Top Multipack / Cluster Wraps resemble the previously mentioned
Neck-Through one, yet the part is covered by the sleeve is the upper portion.
It is generalled used for daily bottles or dairy cups.


III. Packaging Automation of Cardboard/Paperboard Sleeve

The packaging automation of paperboard sleeves has been developing during the past several decades at a conspicuous pace and has diverged into numerous subcategories.

It can be traced back to the late 1990s and the early 2000s when Kliklok Woodman (which was acquired by Bosch and now has been merged into Syntegon) entered into the Chinese market offering C80 and C150 Wraparound Sleever to the market.

Nowadays, sleeve packaging was already ubiquitous on

  • dairy cups,
  • ready meals,
  • prepared foods,
  • tin cans multipack, beverages in multipack, yogurt cluster pack… etc.,

single tray sleeve wrapping

and was extremely welcomed during that period in developed countries and regions such as in the U.S. and Europe and led to the subsequent development of its packaging automation – a trend principally led by packaging machinery manufacturers in the mentioned locations. In the next chapters, we are going to talk about various sleeve packaging automation solutions to a detailed level.

III.I. Fully Automatic Wraparound Sleever

The fully automatic wraparound sleever is a one-site packaging automation solution for both single container and multipack products that is capable of grouping the product, infeeding, overlapping and wrapping the sleeve paperboard, and forming the sleeve packaging adhesively with glue melter or forming it mechanically in case it is the edge-locked sleeve. Manufacturers worldwide have already done well in designing and constructing fully automatic sleevers, some of the top leading manufacturers among them are:

Fully Automatic Wrap-Around Sleevers can be categorized as follow:

  • Sleevers for single package (a ready meal tray, single dairy cup, or any single resemble container)
  • Sleevers for multipack products (Dairy Multipack, multipack tin cans), usually with a grouping system
  • Sleevers for multipack beverages (defined as a separate category due to its relatively higher complexity)

but all of them shares the same process of packaging automation:

  • infeed (and grouping) of container(s)
  • infeed of sleeve paperboard
  • place the sleeve on the container(s)
  • overlap and wrap the sleeve around the container(s)
  • glue seal or fold the tab so as to form the packaging
  • outfeed

We shall give a detailed explanation and introduction to each of these mentioned sections in the following parts.

i. infeed (and grouping) section

The function of the infeed section of a Wraparound Sleeve is not only for infeeding the containers to be packed, but as well for the purpose of piling and grouping (if necessary in case of multipack) and collating them in a regular form to be introduced to the sleever with fixed space between each other. The infeed unit is often driven by servo motor. Containers, if they are of round shape, can be introduced by a screw or rotating panel. Cuboid or rectangle ones are controlled by a servo-driven unit of chains or conveyors to stop them at arrival and release when it coincide with the correct timing to infeed.

ii. infeed of sleeve paperboard/cardboard

The infeed of sleeve cardboard/paperboard is completed through a mechanically and pneumatically driven sleeve feeder. The design of sleeve feeders varies a lot when it comes to models built by different manufacturers. Sleeve feed is supposed to catch the sleeve paperboard/cardboard in the sleeve container, and put them on a sleeve feeding conveyor (if there is one), or directly place them on the containers introduced (gravity fed way).

iii. overlapping and wrapping of the sleeve

Paperboard sleeves are placed on the containers with two edges left without folded in the first place. When they are captured by the overhead control belts the two edges are going to be folded by a folding section, which can turn to be merely some steel guides while in other cases, a pair of extra chain conveyors. On the inferior part of these mentioned sections are some extra guides that will finally fold the two edges together after one of them is jetted with hot melted glue by the jetting gun stretching from the glue melter.

iv. output

After all of these processes, the sleeve packaging automation is completed and the output is delivered from the outfeed side. Products are then passed to the shrink wrapper or in some cases the case packer for the subsequent packaging automation process.

III.II. Pre-Glued Sleever (Cartoner)

The pre-glued automatic sleever is an alternative to the fully automatic wrap-around sleever. We can actually consider the pre-glued automatic sleever as a continuous cartoner for reason that, in fact, they share to some extent the same way of accomplishing the automation.

pre-glued sleeve packaging

In the case of the pre-glued sleever, the sleeve applied is pre-glued rather than being cardboard or paperboard. The carton erector infeed and erect the pre-glued sleeve magazine, whilst the products/containers are inserted horizontally, or say, end-loaded into the erected sleeve.

III.III. Semi-automatic Sleever

The semi-automatic sleever resembles the pre-glued one, however, products/containers are inserted into the erected sleeve manually. We’d not put too many words in this chapter since its relatively not important.

III.IV. Wrap-Around Sleeve Cartoner 

wrap around sleeve cartoning machine for 2x3 bottles

Wrap-Around Sleeve Cartoner is an economic and cost-saving alternative to fully automatic wraparound sleever. It is in fact an updated version of the adhesive application cartoner with a specially designed gluing and folding system to wrap the sleeve. The grouped multipack or single container is introduced into the erector sleeve paperboard horizontally just like what a cartoner does. The two edges of the sleeve are left not folded, which is actually in the next section where it is completed.

The prepared multipack or single container preliminarily wrapped by the sleeve is then passed to the gluing and folding section where the jetting unit of the glue melter sprays hot glue on one edge of the sleeve after which two edges are folded together by several pneumatic cylinders thus to form a sleeve packaging.

IV. Advantages of Packaging Sleeves



environmental friendlyCost-Saving and Effective in Printing

When it comes to printing the packaging sleeves take less space than
those carton boxes with 6 sides. That is to say, fewer packaging printing
materials are used. And in another word, it is environmental-friendly.


wide application Wide Application in Various Industries

Any products, regardless of their shape and style and even those of round shapes
such as the soap can be wrapped by custom packaging sleeves. It doesn’t matter
in which industry the product is, you can just pack them with your own sleeve
design to maximize the branding performance.


easy packaging Facilitate the Packaging Process
The packaging process and automation of the packaging sleeves are far easier
and quicker than that of carton boxes which have closure panels, dust flaps,
and tuck flaps. The packaging automation of the sleeves calls for the wraparound
sleever which takes up less space than what the cartoner does.


Branding Efficient Branding Performance
The packaging sleeves tend to be more eye-catching and effective in
branding in comparison with 6 sides carton boxes. Simple customization
on the sleeve can go a long way for catching attention.



V. Facts to Consider for Choosing a Correct Wrap-Around Sleever

The truth is that the things that must be taken into consideration when purchasing automatic packaging machinery share a lot in common. It is not just about the cost of the machinery itself or the sunk cost and how long it is going to take to compensate for it. Just as what we commented in our former written handbooks:

The procurement and incorporation of an adequate packaging machine are critical to your packaging line, not only in terms of boosting the production and saving labor cost, but as well the opportunity cost may occur, that is to say, the repercussions of an unqualified machine purchased will have dramatic impacts on your business:

  • constant labor and technical cost of maintenance,
  • replacement and the second purchase of machine if it by all means not reliable,
  • the lagged production which may have a fatal impact on your business…

When it comes to the wrap-around sleever, it must be also taken into consideration the product itself. That is to say, sleever used for the cluster pack of beer and sleever for cluster pack/multipack of yogurt are totally different and may not be compatible for these two products.

Here below we conclude those several facts to be considered to choose an adequate Wrap-Around Sleever

1. Know clearly whether it’s “large” or “small”
A single container, a multipack yogurt, a cluster of beer… may call for different equipment. Make it clear in the first place the size, and in case it is a cluster pack, the overall size, and the number of layers, rows and side packs.

2. Make it clear your expected output
An entry-level sleever and a high speed full servo-driven or mechanical sleever are totally different in terms of performance, design and cost.

3. Confirm the sleeve layout and design
Glue-Sealed Sleeve and Edge-Locked Sleeve are different. Make it clear the position where it is glue sealed and the size of the glue flap. Or in the case of the edge-locked sleeves, confirm the sleeve design and especially and lock tabs and apertures.

4. Provide information about upstream machinery and how containers come from there
Give detailed information on your frontside/upstream machinery for the convenience of the manufacturer to design the grouping system, if necessary, to pile the cluster pack.

VI. ESTRENA: ÉLITER’s Advanced Sleeve Wrap-Around Solution

Since we have noted that China’s prepared food and ready meal market is growing at a conspicuous pace as well as the upsurging consumer market, yet there is still no qualified, matching and reliable packaging solution yet for these products which tend to come with packaging sleeves, engineers and professionals at ÉLITER have decided to take the very first step into this prospective market by introducing to the market our ESTRENA Wraparound Sleever with is equipped with the most cutting-edge technologies that enable its unparalleled performance and reliability.

ESTRENA Wraparound Sleever is capable of the sleeve packaging automation for products including:

  • Single containers such as dairy cup, ready meal, a single tray or tin can…
  • Multipack / Cluster containers such as yogurts in multipack, snacks and desserts in multipack, multipack cup-noodle or multipack milk-tea…

We feel extremely proud to be the precursor and pioneer of sleeve packaging automation in China and look forward to being also an important player on an international level to provide sleeve packaging automation to the dairy and food industry worldwide.





I. History of Ready Meals

We have mentioned in the previous parts frequently the read meals or ready-to-eat foods. The history of the ready meal and prepared food can trace back to the 1950s when the American company Swansons made the foundation of the modern ready meal concept. The company was left with a huge surplus of turkey in 1953 after thanksgiving that year which was troublesome to deal with.

The genius idea rushed into their mind to get them packed in aluminum trays just like those foods served on the airlines. Such a new form of a meal at that time was accepted by the market with a great success of sales volume made – allegedly 10 million sold in the very first year. (* Cited from BBC, The rise of the ready meal, 16 Feb 2013, Denise Vinterman)

II. Ready Meals Packaging Nowadays

Ready meals packaging has currently diversified into various styles. Most of them are loaded in a plastic tray or preformed plastic containers which are sealed by film and then wrapped by sleeve cardboard. The production technologies have also made it possible to preserve ready-to-eat foods during the long term. We cite a picture of typical prepared food (ready-to-eat after having been heat by micro-oven) produced by CARRETILLA.

carretilla comidas preparadas

——– CARRETILLA Prepared Food ——–

II.I. Wrap Around Sleeve Packaging and Ready Meals

Sleeve Ready Meal Packaging
Sleeve packaging is commonly used for ready meals – which are frequently loaded in a tray, sealed by film and then over-wrapped by a piece of paperboard sleeve. In the consumer products industry and especially ready-to-eat meals, we can definitely see its omnipresence.

While both in Europe and the U.S.A., people have taken it as commonplace, in China, nevertheless, ready meals and self-heating foods with sleeve packaging are gradually taking up the shelves with market volume growing with a year-by-year recorded surge.


II.II. Emerging Market of Sef-Heating Foods


Self-Heating Foods

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is the primary incentive that led to the “Going-Through-the-Roof” increasing market volume of self-heating foods in China. Early back to the 2000s self-heating foods were already introduced to the market though, it was until 2017 that they were noticed by the consumer market and then saw their impact on the traditional instant food market.

During the covid pandemic when restaurants were shut down, home-delivery foods were restricted and people were forced to stay at home, self-heating meals cut into the niche and were suddenly short of demand due to the online purchasing channel.


III. The Diversity of Dairy Product Packaging

Dairy products are always considered the most sensitive and vulnerable item to deterioration which will affect their taste and appearance. In the meanwhile, the massive consumption of dairy products makes it essential to innovate its packaging to a level of minimum waste and as lean as possible. We can see that between these two facets there is some kind of contradiction.

In the case of China, and probably in all the other countries, the dairy products were originally mostly sold in glass bottles. The milkman would dispatch home in the morning the milk or yogurt ordered by clients and come to recollect them empty bottles in the afternoon, which would lead to considerable work hours.

A historic photo of milkman
——– A Historic Photo of Milkman ——–

Nowadays, however, dairy product packaging has developed into a wide category and diversity. But principally, the dairy cups (yogurt and desserts) come in preformed plastic containers which could be round shape or cuboid shape and sealed by a food-grade plastic film or the Alu-cover.

About the Authors

Zixin Yuan
Digital Marketing Coordinator
Zixin Yuan - LinkedIn

Zhiwei Bao
Company Owner
Zhiwei Bao - LinkedIn

About the Company
ÉLITER Packaging Machinery Co., Ltd
No.1088, Jing Ye Rd, Economic Development Zone, Dong Shan District, Ruian Wenzhou Zhejiang, China 325200
+86 (0577) 6668 2128
ÉLITER Packaging Machinery