Barcode Numbers

Barcode numbers are the digits you see underneath the black-and-white lines. They are globally unique identifiers for products (‘SKUs’). Here, we explain more about barcode numbers and how they are used in retail.

Think of the number as a unique fingerprint for each product variant (SKU). Each product has its own number to identify it. Retailers and suppliers use the number to identify products in their databases.

The most common barcode numbers are 13 digits long. Look at any product in your kitchen cupboards. It likely has a 13-digit barcode number on it. Some products use 12-digit barcode numbers (12 digits is standard in Canada and USA). There are also 8-digit barcode numbers, which are difficult to obtain and expensive.

Barcode numbers are then encoded into images; 13-digit barcodes use EAN-13 barcode format, 12-digit numbers use UPC-A format, and 8-digit numbers use EAN-8 format.

EAN Small
13 digit EAN format
UPC Code
12 digit UPC format

So what’s a G.T.I.N?

G.T.I.N is just a newer term for barcode number. It stands for Global Trade Item Number. G.T.I.N are globally unique identifiers for products (SKUs).

Watch our short GTIN video explainer on YouTubeYoutube logo

Why are we talking more about GTINs now?

The traditional linear retail barcode is changing after over 50 years of use. By 2027, retailers worldwide will scan 2D barcodes at the point of sale instead of using traditional linear EAN or UPC barcodes. 2D codes are more forgiving than linear formats and can encode more data.

Traditional barcodes store data in a series of black and white lines, while 2D barcodes use patterns of squares, dots, hexagons, and other shapes. This allows 2D barcodes to encode more data in a smaller space.

Each product (SKU) will still need its own number or GTIN. The GTIN will be encoded into the 2D code.

With 2D Barcodes, the brand can maintain and update a single, authoritative source of product information.  This ensures that everyone involved in the supply chain is working with accurate, up-to-date information.

2D Barcodes can encode a wide range of product information, from basic details like product name and description to more specific data like allergen information, nutritional facts, and usage instructions. This flexibility allows businesses to tailor the information they share based on the needs of different stakeholders, whether it’s regulatory compliance, marketing, or consumer education.


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