Shrink-wrap supplies and machines are very costly. Most small businesses don't have the capital to invest in professional shrink-wrap equipment. However, there are ways to shrink-wrap chocolate boxes without investing money in specialty equipment, especially if the quantity is still small enough that you can maintain personal attention to detail.
One of the most important choices you will make to lower your cost for shrink-wrapping, is which plastic to use. There are several different options, which include basket shrink-wrap, which comes in rolls and is usually lower than 100 gauge, and pre-sized shrink-wrap bags.
Basket shrink wrap, which can be found at any craft store, comes in rolls similar to wrapping paper, and can be cut to size. This is a good choice if you are wrapping large items. Cut the piece of wrap similarly to how you would cut wrapping paper, wrap the box and tape the bottom closed with clear tape.
For more uniform shrink-wrap needs, pre-sized shrink-wrap bags may be a better choice since they offer more strength. Simply slide the box into the shrink-wrap bag, cut the excess and tape the bag tightly at the bottom before you shrink it.
To determine the most economical way to shrink-wrap your products, consider how much product will be wasted at the end of the process. If you choose plastic that is lower than 100 gauge, or is not made to be heat-sealed, you will waste a lot of your product trying to get a good wrap! Try to find plastic that you can either easily cut to size, or is already near the size you'll need so you don't have wasted plastic. Try to buy plastic which is specifically created for shrink-wrapping. There are hundreds of kinds/gauges of plastic and not all of them can be used to shrink-wrap.
Plastic shrink-wrap bags can be an excellent choice. You'll have a set quantity, usually for a penny each or less, which can help with budgeting and waste reduction. Plastic shrink-wrap bags are also most often 100 gauge or more, which provides some resistance to tearing and puncturing. Thesoapgoat.com offers an excellent range of sizes and gauges for very reasonable prices.
To shrink-wrap the chocolate boxes, you will need a heat source. Use either a hairdryer of 1,000 watts or more and put it on the hottest setting, or purchase a heat gun. Heat guns can be found in the paint section of most home and hardware stores.Be sure your heat source is reliable. Don't bother with a low quality hairdryer or light bulb, since these will either not melt the plastic completely, or will overheat in one area, and under-heat in others causing the plastic to dimple.
Other Tools and Process
When you have chosen your plastic and heat source, and have these plus tape, scissors and the chocolate boxes filled and closed, you are ready to begin. Measure and cut the plastic to fit the boxes, overlapping the edges by about a half an inch, or slide the box into the shrink wrap bag, and cut away as much excess as possible.
Fold over the opening, and tape it down flat against the bottom or side of the box with clear tape, and turn on your heat source. Wait a few moments for it to heat up. Start with the taped side, aiming the heat gun or hairdryer so that the heat moves across the surface of the chocolate box, and not directly at the object, which will melt the plastic. (And possibly your chocolate!) Be sure to keep the heat source at least six to 12 inches away from your item. Shrink as much as you can on the taped side, and then turn the box and shrink each side and check for an even wrap.
Tips and Warnings
Some people try to shrink-wrap with kitchen plastic wrap, but applying heat to this type of plastic can weaken it, and it's very likely to tear, especially if you plan to stack or ship packages wrapped in kitchen plastic wrap.
Be sure to cut the plastic as close to size as possible. Too much plastic will result in a very wrinkly, loose fitting seal. Too little plastic leaves a gap where the tape is, which doesn't look professional when it is wrapped.
NEVER test a heat gun by putting your hand near the end; it can cause severe burns in just a split second.
If you have never shrink-wrapped before, practice a few times on an empty box until you can achieve uniform shrinkage.
A full-time freelance writer since 2001, Marcie Macari has been writing for publications such as "Viva Magazine," "The Compleat Mother Magazine" and "Island Child." In addition, she authored the book "She Births," and three pieces in "Bearing Witness."