GTIN 50 years: Continues to digitize commerce

It all started with a number – Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) that appears under the barcode of almost all products. The number set the standard 50 years ago and has transformed the global economy. Now is the time to take the step towards the next generation of barcodes – the two-dimensional barcode. And a new era of digitalisation is taking shape.

Fifty years ago, on March 31, 1971, products and items received unique ID numbers(GTIN)and barcodes instead of price tags. This revolutionised commerce around the world and has made it onto the BBC’s list of 50 things that made the modern economy.

The collaboration that changed everything

Leading grocery and retail companies made digitalisation possible when they decided to meet in New York to collaborate and make decisions on a common identification system that would be used worldwide. Later known as the most important supply chain standard in history. The meeting led to the creation of GTIN, which is the core of the barcode.

Original document

Participants in the meeting came from companies such as Heinz, General Mills, Kroger and Bristol Meyer. Unique numbers have since then helped brand owners around the world to share standardized product information with the buyer of the product, such as a store or marketplace.

Six billion transactions each day

For half a century, physical trade items have been able to take their place in the global digital ecosystem – all thanks to GTIN, which ensures that the items have a globally unique identity. Today, the barcode is scanned over six billion times each day and is one of the most trusted symbols in the world.

Digitalisation has opened doors for B2B and B2C that enable visibility and transparency in the value chain. More industries and large companies have recently chosen to recommend GTIN for unique identification, such as Amazon, Google and the construction industry in Sweden.

The next generation of barcodes

Now it’s time for GTIN to step into the next era. GS1 standards and barcodes continue to contribute to the flow of global business quickly, efficiently and securely, simplifying all kinds of processes in the supply chain. Consumers are demanding more and better product information, which is why it’s time to take barcodes to the next level.

2D barcodes

The step towards the next generation of barcodes means that we are going from striped to checkered. The two-dimensional barcodes (GS1 DataMatrix and QR codes ), have the capacity to contain much more information than today’s one-dimensionalcodes. Implementation initiatives are already ongoing in different places around the world and in Sweden.

Read more about the 2D barcode initiative in the Swedish grocery industry >>

GTIN and 2D barcodes in combination with GS1 Digital Link, create an even greater value because information can be linked to the web. This means that you can offer a more comprehensive story about the product with information about, among other things;

  • ingredients
  • guarantee
  • campaigns
  • user instructions

… and traceability information that is important for both consumers and all business partners handling the product in the supply chain.

Win consumer trust

2D barcodes and GTIN provide consumers with comprehensive and reliable information. This means that consumers are given completely new opportunities for information on quality, origin, authenticity and much more. A well-informed consumer will make purchasing decisions easier and brand owners gain a new level of trust linked to the products.

Now is the time to transform global commerce for the future. And to collaborate between industries just like in 1971 when GTIN and barcodes became a global standard. Keep track of GS1 channels for more information about 2D barcodes.

See GS1 press release