Who needs a UPC number?

If you sell products to a distributor or a retailer, those products may need a UPC bar code that represents a "Global Trade Item Number" (GTIN). Most retailers doing scanning of merchandise at the checkout counter will require you to bar code label any merchandise you want them to carry. If the company requires a UPC number, then before you can label your merchandise, you must get a unique UCC Company Prefix from the single authority, the GS1 US (formerly the Uniform Code Council) that exclusively controls the assignment of numbers. Many national chains may require a copy of your Uniform Code Council (UCC) (GS1) letter identifying your company’s bar code. When you get a number, you will also get a certificate from that body authenticating your number; most retailers will demand proof of that certificate to verify that your number is an authorized unique number and is registered to your company.

What if I just want to do a simple inventory?

If you do not plan to sell the products that you want to bar code to retailers for resale, and you simply want them bar coded for internal use (like inventory, or tracking) then you DO NOT need to get a number from the GS1 US. For this application, you can use any numbering system you like, and any bar code type you want. UPC bar codes are not required, or recommended - you can use Code 39 or Code 128, (or any bar code type for that matter) which are much more flexible.


Now that I know I need a UCC Company prefix, where do I get it?

In order to get a UCC Company Prefix, you must apply for membership to the GS1 US (formerly the Uniform Code Council). There is a fee for membership and it is based upon the information you provide about your company on the on-line application. Two of the key factors that are considered are sales volume/revenue and numbering capacity needs. Their initial fee can be as low as $760 for up to 100 barcodes. You can apply online.


What is a UPC bar code?

If you buy products in a retail environment, then you are familiar with the bar codes you see on most products in any of your local retail stores. This is called a GS1-12, or UPC-A code, it is 12 digits long and looks something like this:

The UPC number itself is referred to as the GTIN - Global Trade Item Number. The GTIN is made up of your GS1 Company Prefix and the number that you have assigned to that unique product.

The UCC Company Prefix is a 6-9 digit number assigned to you by the GS1. The number of digits is determined typically by how many products you will need to assign numbers to. If you have 50 products that require unique numbers, you would probably be assigned a 9 digit UCC Company Prefix (That leaves 2 digits to represent your items). In the bar code sample to the left, a 6 digit number, "012345" had been assigned. This number will represent the manufacturer on all of their products as well as in any EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) applications.

The second set of numbers are used to reference the specific product. It is called an "Item Reference Number". This number is not assigned by the GS1. This number is up to the manufacturer and is often assigned in a random manner. In the example bar code above, the Item Reference Number is "67890". Depending on how many items you have requested numbering for, this Item Reference Number may be 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 digits long.

The last number is a check digit calculated from the previous 11 digits. It is not randomly assigned. Most bar code printing programs will calculate this check digit for you. The check digit for the example above is "5".


Apply for UPC's

7887 Washington Village Drive, Suite 300 
Dayton, OH 45459 
T 937-435-3870       
F 937-435-7317 
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST