On 31 March 1971, more than 50 years ago, a group of business leaders put aside their commercial differences and met up in New York City to revolutionise the grocery sector. Price stickers were no longer going to cut it, so they imagined something better that would save people time, money, and help to identify everything we buy.
And so, the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) was born.
You will most likely recognise the GTIN as the machine-readable, black and white lines that make up a barcode. However, it is the number itself, which you will see sitting underneath the black and white lines, that is the GTIN. It is this little number that has revolutionised how we shop and continues to play a significant role in global commerce.
The GTIN uniquely connects every product to its product data across the globe, as well as linking it to a unique brand, allowing retailers and marketplaces to efficiently categorise and list items on their platforms. This technology is what enables a multi-billion-dollar global supply chain and helps move products around the world and across borders.
GS1 UK is one of the 116 independent GS1 organisations that license and manage the global system of GTINs.
Online, in-store and even on the hospital ward, GS1 UK help organisations to uniquely identify, describe and track anything, creating greater trust in data for everyone. As a neutral, not-for-profit membership organisation, GS1 UK brings members together to address industry problems that companies can’t solve alone by harnessing the power of standards to transform the way people work and live.
How do GTINs work?
Often referred to as an EAN or UPC, the globally recognised term GTIN describes a unique number that can identify any product, person, or place. GTINs can be thought of as a key that unlocks information stored against a particular item from a central database or across the web.
You will most commonly recognise the GTIN in its machine-readable form as the black and white lines that make up a barcode. However, it is the number underneath these lines that enables you to uniquely identify your item, both on and offline, by combining the following elements;
Country prefix: The first three digits of the company prefix in sequence.
Company prefix: Unique numbers are assigned to companies. The length of the prefix varies on how many numbers are required.
Product code: Used to uniquely identify a product type. The length of the code depends on the company prefix and tends to be three digits.
Check digit: The last digit of a GTIN is a check digit which makes sure the number is correctly composed. It is calculated by a simple mathematical principle. The modulo-10 algorithm, which anyone can work out
The GTIN is powerful because it provides a common language for business entities and trading partners across the world to identify items and share their data easily. GTINs can also be used online to uniquely identify products on marketplaces like Amazon and eBay. Google also recommends you add them to your Google Shopping listings.
Why use GTINs?
Trust - as each number is unique, GTINs give your retailers and consumers trust in what’s on the physical and digital shelf.
Traceability - GTINs are licensed to each GS1 member, so they can be tracked and traced through the global supply chain, easily and efficiently.
Truly global - GTINs are the global standard for identifying items and GS1 is the only authorised source for GTINs worldwide.
Increased visibility - GTINs make sure search engines and online marketplaces recognise and represent your products correctly, making them more visible to consumers.
Not all product identifiers are created equal. If you buy numbers from a non-GS1 organisation, you might find that the number is already being used by another organisation. It may not even be a genuine GTIN. This can lead to big problems and in some extreme cases, your product can be delisted by marketplaces or rejected by a retailer.
As the only authorised source of GTINs, you can avoid this headache by getting yours from an official GS1 organisation. In doing so you can be sure that the numbers you assign to your products are unique to your brand and receive expert support in getting set up for success.
In partnership with Great British Entrepreneurs, GS1 UK are pleased to offer new members a 20% discount on their first year’s membership.
Click here for an exclusive discount for Great British Entrepreneur Awards community members.