GS1 Celebrates 50th 'Scanniversary' Of The Barcode

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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GS1 Celebrates 50th 'Scanniversary' Of The Barcode

When a 10-pack of Wrigley's chewing gum was scanned at a Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio, on 26 June 1974, it kickstarted a revolution in retail, commencing the era of the Universal Product Code (UPC), otherwise known as the barcode.

Now, as that milestone celebrates its 50th 'scanniversary', the ubiquitous barcode is now used to identify more than one billion products worldwide, and is scanned more than 10 billion times daily, 'serving as a cornerstone of global commerce', says GS1 US, the information standards organisation that first developed the UPC.

"While we honour the legacy of the iconic UPC barcode over the last half-century, we must support today's digital world characterised by elevated consumer expectations and increasingly complex supply chains," said Bob Carpenter, president and CEO, GS1 US.

Next-Generation Barcodes

With that in mind, GS1 is touting the emergence of new two-dimensional (2D) barcodes, like QR codes, as the next generation of this technology – said codes are able to provide consumers with more detailed product information, and offer greater flexibility in terms of retail and supply chain management.

A recent consumer survey by GS1 in the US revealed that 77% of consumers consider product information crucial when making a purchase, and 79% are more likely to buy products with a scannable barcode or QR code (via smartphone) that provides the information they want.


In addition, some the world's largest companies, including Procter & Gamble, L'Oréal, and Nestlé, have signed a global joint statement advocating for the adoption of next-generation barcodes to enhance the consumer experience.

As a result, brands worldwide are transitioning from UPCs to new 2D barcodes on product packaging, and retailers have set a target date of 2027 to accept these at checkout, under the GS1 US initiative labeled Sunrise 2027.

'A Single Gateway'

"Innovation is flourishing with the growing adoption of new 2D barcodes," Carpenter added. "These QR codes, powered by GS1, can provide a single gateway to help consumers understand product composition, sustainability efforts and recalls while aiding retailers with inventory control, on-demand discounting, couponing and more.

"The opportunities to power consumer confidence and connect with brands while also serving the business needs of industry are truly limitless."

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