How to Get UPC Codes

Universal Product Codes, or UPC codes, are the 12 digit numbers found under barcodes on any point of sale product. UPCs are given out by Global Standard 1 (GS1), a nonprofit group, and serve as a standardized means of tracking inventory and distinguishing sellers by location. The barcode together with the UPC under it is scanned at the time of a sale.

How to Get Your Unique UPC Codes:

Read in details to get UPC code.

1. Calculate how many products need UPC codes.

You will need a different UPC for each product, including different sizes, volumes, flavors, etc. For example, if you have dress pants that come in red, green, and blue, and each color comes in small, medium, and large sizes, you will need 9 UPCs all together: 3 for the red pants, 3 for the green pants, and 3 for the blue pants.

Take inventory of all your products that require UPCs to estimate how many Item Reference Numbers (IRNs) you will need, as well as how many digits your highest IRN will have. The number of digits in your highest IRN will make up part of your 12-digit UPC.

You can then calculate how many digits your company prefix should have by subtracting the number of IRN digits from 11. The twelfth number of your UPC will be the check digit, which is mathematically calculated from the other numbers.

As an example, if you have 9,145 products that need UPCs, your highest IRN will be 9145 (4 numbers). Your company prefix will then be 7 numbers long (11 – 4).

2. Join GS1 US and apply for your GS1 company prefix.

GS1 is the only legitimate producer of UPC codes. GS1 US is an organization that serves American businesses. You will need to apply for membership so that you can be assigned your company prefix, which is a unique set of digits that identifies your company as the manufacturer for your product supply chain.

Your membership fee, as well as the number of digits in your company prefix, will depend on the number of UPCs you need. See our table below for the GS1 US pricing guide.

You can fill in GS1 US’s online application to apply for membership and your company prefix. You will need to fill in your company’s contact details and your prefix pricing plan before paying online.

3. Assign a unique product number.

You will need to create a unique product number for each of your products. This will be based on how many digits are in your IRN.

Using the example above, if you have 9,145 products, you will start assigning product numbers from 0001 all the way through to 9145. These unique product numbers will then be added to your company prefix to form 11 out of the 12 numbers in the UPC.

You can assign the IRNs to each product yourself and use GS1’s check digit calculator, available for free as part of your membership, to calculate the twelfth digit of the UPC. However, if you have a large range of products, keeping track of all the IRNs can be a challenge. As part of your GS1 membership, you will have access to their online Data Hub, which will help you to create, track, and double-check your IRNs.

4. Choose a barcode design.

Standard barcodes are vertical black stripes on a white background, but you can also choose blue stripes on a yellow or red background. Choose the color variety that you like and that best suits your products.

5. Determine how to display the barcode.

If you have not yet printed your products’ packaging or labels, you can order digital barcodes which can then be incorporated into the package or label design. You will need to place the digital barcode in an area of the packaging or label that will stay flat and unwrinkled for easy scanning. You will also want to double-check the size you need as changing the size of the barcode can affect scanning. Digital barcodes are usually placed in the lower right-hand corner on the back of the packaging.

If you have already printed your products’ packaging or labels, you can order printed barcodes in the form of adhesive labels and apply them physically to your packaging or labels. You should place the barcode labels in the same location on all your products.

6. Order your UPC barcodes.

You can order digital barcodes with your unique UPCs from GS1’s website. You will receive your UPC barcodes in (eps.) file format which you can then add to your label or packaging design with a program like Adobe Photoshop.

You can also order physical barcodes with your unique UPCs from GS1’s website. You will receive adhesive labels with the printed barcodes on them which you can then physically apply to all your products.

Pricing for UPC barcodes ranges from $400.00 to $13,000.00 per batch, depending on how many UPCs you order. This pricing includes your membership fee.

7. Test the printed barcodes.

Once you have ordered your barcodes and included them in your packaging, you will want to test the printed barcodes and verify that they will scan properly. You can use a certified service that will verify your barcodes for a price, or you can buy your own verification equipment through GS1.