• Barcode Ireland Team

6 important things you need to know before barcoding your products

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

The which, why, where, whether of UPC-A and EAN-13 barcodes.

Aluminium cans pre label and UPC-A/EAN-13 barcode

1. Where your barcode number comes from

Basically, there are two ways to source barcode numbers for your products. The first is from GS1, Global Standards 1, the official international provider and administrator of barcode numbers. In this instance, you will be leasing your barcodes annually and will be required to pay an upfront registration fee and annual renewal fees. The alternative is to purchase your barcodes through a reputable legal barcode reseller such as Barcode Ireland. Barcode resellers have sourced their numbers directly from GS1 prior to changes in law made in 2002 which now enables them to resell unique and previously owned but never used barcodes at a once-off price to customers. With a barcode reseller, there are no registration fees or annual renewal fees involved, once purchased the barcodes do not expire and belong to you in perpetuity.

2. Is your barcode accepted at your intended retailer

As long as your number originates from GS1, you can be assured that it will be accepted at all stores and that it will be a number that is completely unique to you and your products. Some stores such as Tesco require you to acquire a GLN (Global Location Number) number from GS1 in order to register your products. However, having obtained this GLN number, you may still use the UPC-A and EAN-13 numbers that we at Barcode Ireland provide.

Currently, Amazon prefers that barcode numbers come directly from GS1 and that their suppliers are current members of GS1. Whilst GS1 membership is effective in listing on Amazon, it’s also a very expensive option especially for small to medium sized enterprises. GS1 levy expensive joining fees and annual renewal fees for the life of the product.

There are however thousands of products on Amazon using barcodes from legitimate resellers such as ourselves although acceptance may vary. The reason for this may be that in the event they check the validity of the number, they are able to see that it’s reflected on the GS1 database, although under the name of the original licensee and not ourselves as the current legitimate owner and of GS1 origin. GS1 does not update their search engine to reflect the current, legal owners of 'pre-owned' barcodes.

If you wish to ascertain barcode acceptance on Amazon or with any other retailer for that matter, we recommend you check directly with them.

3. Which barcode format you will need to use


For all products that are going to be sold in retail stores (ranging from toothbrushes to tools, lollipops to laptops!) you will require a retail barcode number which is coded into either a UPC-A or EAN-13 format. The UPC-A format is predominantly used in the US and Canada whilst the EAN-13 is preferred in Europe and the rest of the world, although with modern scanners both formats can be read worldwide.

For books and magazines, an ISBN or ISSN number respectively is required as your publication details will be captured onto the National Library. The Irish ISSN Centre in the National Library of Ireland has responsibility only for the issuing of ISSN's (International Standard Serial Numbers) which can only be applied to serials, i.e. items which continue indefinitely, such as journals, magazines, newspapers and annual reports.

ISBN's (International Standard Book Numbers) are applied to books and once-off publications. ISBN's are issued by the ISBN Agency, 3rd Floor, Midas House, 62 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey, GU216LQ.

email isbn.agency@nielsen.com; their website is https://nielsenbook.co.uk/isbn-agency/.

4. How many barcode numbers are needed for your product range

Simply put, you will require one unique barcode number for every product and variation in product. For example, if you’re selling 250ml and 500ml fruit juices in apple, orange and pear, you will require 6 barcodes:

250ml apple juice 500ml apple juice 250ml orange juice 500ml orange juice 250ml pear juice 500ml pear juice

5. How you are going to print your barcodes

It's not necessary to know your JPEG from your EPS! Graphic designers and printing companies are generally well informed when it comes to correct sizing, scannability and printing of barcodes. For further information, have a look at our definitive post on guidelines for barcode printing https://www.barcodeireland.ie/post/guidelines-for-barcode-printing.

Once you’ve received your barcode numbers and images, simply forward them on to the experts and they will know what to do. They can be embedded in your packaging, or, if you’ve already approved and printed your product packaging, the barcodes can be printed on adhesive labels ready for application to your packaging.

You may find our related blogs, barcode printers and labels - a basic guide https://www.barcodeireland.ie/post/barcode-printers-and-labels-a-basic-guide and product label design https://www.barcodeireland.ie/post/product-label-design helpful.

6. Whether your final product is actually scannable

Always ensure that you test out your barcodes before going ahead with the final major print run. Ask your printer to send you a few samples of your printed barcodes so that you can check if they’re scannable. You can do this by scanning the images with a regular barcode scanner, or if you don’t have one, your intended retailers can scan your barcodes for you.

We hope you found the former informative. For a more extensive list of Q & A's around barcodes, visit our comprehensive FAQ's on https://www.barcodeireland.ie/faq.

Our barcodes work internationally. Should you need barcodes for your products, simply go to our Buy page www.barcodeireland.ie/buy, or contact us on info@barcodeireland.ie or through the contact form on our website www.barcodeireland.ie/contact and let Barcode Ireland help you.

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