GS1 Terms

Glossary of useful GS1 terms

Marko Vrbnjak GS1 Leave a Comment

The GS1 system has a language of its own, and it’s handy to have a glossary to refer to when getting started. You’ll hear some terms and acronyms quite often, including barcode types and language (symbology). It can be confusing at first, but will become easier as you go on. Understanding these terms is essential to implementing barcodes with your products correctly.

Here are some of the most common GS1 terms to get you started:

Company Prefix A number that identifies a brand. It is licensed to businesses after an application to the GS1 office, and based on their identification needs. These needs are determined by what the company needs to identify: products, locations or other things.
Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) A globally unique 14-digit number used to identify trade items, products, or services. It is the number you see beneath the barcode. You can also use it to identify your products online.
Serial shipping container codes (SSCC) Similar to the GTIN, but SSCC numbers are given to shipping containers. They have 18 digits (with an additional two digit application identifier) and are used on pallets going into large retailers.
Global Location Number (GLN) A unique identifying number used by a company or organisation. It can also be used to number legal entities like factories, headquarters, delivery places, invoicing addresses, workplaces and branches, as well as functions or roles, like goods recipient or authorised purchaser.
Universal Product Code (UPC) Barcode UPC is mostly used for products at point of sale in the USA. UPC also allows the GTIN to be scanned by a barcode reader. When you get a company prefix, you will also be receiving a UPC Company Prefix for the purpose of creating a 12-digit GTIN for UPC barcode.
European Article Number (EAN) Barcode EAN is a superset of UPC and has 13 digits with the first digits identifying a country code. It is the standard retail barcode used almost everywhere (except the US, where UPC is more common).
GS1 – 128 This is a derivative language of the Code 128 symbology and has a variable length and high density (two numbers are interleaved into each barcode character). It is a code developed to provide a global standard for exchanging data between companies and encodes logistics data.
Data Bar Barcode Type of barcode often used to label fresh foods. They can hold information like an item batch number or expiry date, in addition to other attributes used at point of sale, like weight. Formerly known as Reduced Space Symbology (RSS-14).
Linear Barcodes Includes barcodes like UPC, Code 128, Code39 and Data Bar.
2D Barcodes Square or rectangular shaped barcodes that can hold nearly 100 times more data than linear. They require a 2D barcode scanner to scan and are mostly used by large companies and in marketing campaigns. Data matrix and QR code are the most common types.
Human Readable Interpretation (HRI) The text/numbers beneath the barcode that humans can read, in case the barcode scan fails.


You can find out all about the GS1 system, how to create barcodes correctly and verify them in The GS1 Handbook – How To Barcode Your Product , and read more on other barcode related tips here .

Contact us to learn how NiceLabel can help you create errorless barcodes that scan every time!


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