There are a variety of different types of barcodes. However, the UPC barcode symbol is the most recognized barcode in the United States, since it appears on almost every retail product. The UPC symbol (Universal Product Number) is the barcode representation of the GTIN-12 which consists of twelve numeric characters that uniquely identify a company’s product. The GTIN-12 number is part of the family of GS1 global data structures that employ 14 digits and can be encoded into various types of data carriers.
Although the initial UPC usage was focused on retail point of sale (POS), many other industries have adopted this coding structure. As of January 2005, there were significant changes to the terminology involving product barcode marking. Please visit our site home page www.gtin.info to learn more about the GTIN (Global Trade Identification Number) data structures.
The first six to nine digits of a UPC are referred to as the “Company Prefix”, and they are assigned by a non-profit organization (GS1 US formerly the Uniform Code Council). This number uniquely identifies a company and always remains constant on all of a company’s products. The next set of digits is called the “product numbers.” Product numbers uniquely identify individual items. Unlike the GS1 Company Prefix, product numbers are arbitrarily assigned by each company. The twelfth character is called the “check digit”. Using some form of check digit generator (use our free check digit calculator) this digit is calculated using a mathematical calculation based on the first 11 digits of the UPC code.
A common mistake companies make is creating their own UPC numbers. A company cannot “make up” its own UPC number. To have a UPC code that will scan at Point of Sale, the UPC number must contain a GS1-assigned Company Prefix, also known as a manufacturer prefix. GS1 is the global standards organization for item/shipment identification and administers the assignment of GS1 Company Prefixes.
Companies who need to obtain UPCs should watch video below
To apply For UPC barcodes, please visit www.barcode-us.com.
A typical process of obtaining a 12-digit UPC number is as follows:
- License a unique Company Prefix from your local GS1 office
- Assign product number(s) to unique products making your number equal 11 digits
- Using a check digit calculator with your 11 digit number, generate your check digit.
Combining the above steps will result in a 12-digit UPC number.
(Change in 2020)- To accommodate small companies that only need a few UPCs, GS1 began providing individual GS1 US UPC GTIN identifiers. These single UPCs do not have separate Company Prefix, BUT the brand and product description will be designated in the GS1 Global Registry. To learn more, please visit https://www.barcode-us.com.
UPC Sizing Requirements
UPC sizes are referred to as magnifications or magnification factors. The nominal size of a UPC is 100% magnification factor or 1.469 inches wide (from the far left-hand side number to the far right-hand side number) by 1.02 inches tall (from the top of the bar code to the bottom of the human-readable numbers). The minimum size of a UPC is 80% magnification factor (80% of the nominal size) and the maximum size of a UPC is 200% magnification factor (200% of the nominal size). Click here for a complete UPC Magnification Table.
UPC-A vs. UPC-E
The main difference between a UPC-A and a UPC-E is the size of the barcode. The UPC-E is also called a 0-Suppressed UPC because the UPC-E compresses a normal 12-digit UPC-A number into a six-digit code by “suppressing” the number system digit, trailing zeros in the manufacturer’s code and leading zeros in the product number. The seventh digit is a calculated check digit using the first 6 digits of the code. UPC-E can thus be uncompressed back into a standard UPC-A 12-digit number. Please note that some manufacturing code numbers beginning with “0” have this capability. And, any manufacturing code starting with a number other than “0.” cannot be zero-suppressed.
Please be advised that there are third-party companies on the internet who offer to sell single UPC bar codes for discount $5 rates. Most of the main retailers will not accept their numbers, and many online websites are preying on unsuspecting new companies. Quite SIMPLY, buying “upc codes” from any organization other than GS1 puts you at risk for acceptance by retailers. There may be smaller retailers and online marketplaces that do not require a unique GS1 Company Prefix. However, if you plan on someday selling to any larger retailer in the future, you do not want to have your products marked with UPC barcodes which may not be accepted. Proper product identification is important! Please call us at 888-540-6885 for assistance.
For additional information on UPC/EAN EAN numbering and barcode requirements please visit www.barcode-us.info.
There has been a dramatic increase in the dependency on UPC barcode symbols, since companies are investing millions of dollars in computer systems and scanning equipment to take advantage of automatic data collection. The foundation of these systems is contingent on barcode print quality. When symbols can not be read or decoded incorrectly, the efficiency of these systems is brought to a halt. Consequently, many retailers are severely penalizing consumer goods manufacturers who furnish substandard UPC symbols.