Need Barcodes? We Can Help!

To sell products instore or online most trading partners require products to have Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs)— the unique product identification numbers seen below most barcodes.

Get Started — Simple Steps to Getting GTINs and Barcodes

The first step in creating barcodes and the numbers that go into them is to obtain a GS1 Company Licence. A GS1 Company Licence is a unique identification number that GS1 Canada issues just to your company—and it is part of every barcode and identification number (GTIN) you create. It is the internationally accepted way to uniquely identify products in the global supply chain.

 

You have your product, your business plan, and maybe even some prospective buyers. Now it's time to take the next step. To sell your product in a store or online, you need barcodes. Let GS1 Canada help you get started by subscribing today.

Do you have a GS1 Company Licence?

No

No problem! Keep reading to find out how to get your Licence

I Don't Know

Let us help you get started. Email us at info@gs1ca.org and we'll let you know if your company already has a GS1 Company Licence.

The number on every barcode, called the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), previously known as the Universal Product Code (U.P.C.), is unique. That uniqueness is managed through a licence, and the licence you get depends on what you need. If you have 10 products or fewer, GS1 Canada will issue you licences for individual GTINs; if you need more, we will issue you a licence for a GS1 Company Prefix, which can be used to generate even more. Whichever you need, the GTINs for your products are guaranteed to be unique worldwide.

When you obtain a licence for a GTIN or GS1 Company Prefix, you get access to Barcode Generator, our online tool that helps you take the guesswork out of creating and managing barcodes and product identifiers. To help you distinguish between barcode and product identifiers or GTINS, barcodes are the images that represent the product identifiers or GTIN while the GTINs are the numbers below the image.

We also provide referrals to GS1 Canada-certified barcode professionals who can create and print barcodes for you. In addition, you'll get access to our expert member support team, online education and training materials to access your resources, and more.

To get started follow these three steps as you go through the subscription process:

1  Estimate how many barcodes you need

Did you know that each variation of each product you sell requires a unique GTIN?

For example, if you sell yogurt, but it comes in 3 sizes (small, medium and large), and 3 flavours (vanilla, plain and cherry), 3 specialties (fat-free, lactose-free and Greek) and you sell in it in 3 package types you need to identify 81 product variations (3 sizes x 3 flavours x 3 specialties x 3 packages = 81 GTINs) . If they also come in 3 case types, you'll need 243 GTINs (3 sizes x 3 flavours x 3 specialties x 3 packages x 3 cases = 243 GTINs).

Need more help in figuring out how many GTINs you need for each of your products? Use the GTIN Estimator to plan your current and future GTIN needs on a per product basis.

2  Choose the right pricing plan for you

A GS1 Canada subscription comes in five different “capacities” based on how many GTINs you'll need, from as few as 1 product to as many as 100,000 unique products and your annual revenue. Selecting the correct capacity makes a difference to your business. Most of our subscribers select Licences that have a larger capacity than they need at the present moment. Why? These companies are planning for their future growth. More products and variations mean more GTINs. If it turns out you do require more, you can always request an upgrade

Keep in mind, having all your products associated with one Prefix Licence number might be easier for your company to manage and may be less expensive. If you do have any questions, please contact us. Our pricing schedule is based on the number of unique products that you need to identify and your total annual revenue. Your initial fee provides the Licence to you for one year. After that, you'll pay the annual renewal fee to continue using for your barcodes and product identification.

3  Fill out our online application

Provide your contact information, choose your Licence capacity, and pay online. It's that easy. Once your account is set-up you'll get a welcome email from GS1 Canada within 24 to 48 hours confirming your subscription.  We will contact you if additional information is needed. This email includes all the important information you need to get started, including how to access your Licence certificate, your GTINs and access to myGS1— your personalized online hub for your account.

Subscribe Now

Identifying Products (GTIN)

What is a GTIN?

A Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is the number you see underneath the barcode symbol—and it's the same number that's encoded in the lines and spaces that the scanner reads. GTINs uniquely identify products at all item and package levels.

Where are GTINs used?

GTINs are used in barcodes scanned at retail point-of-sale and on inner packs, cases, and pallets of products scanned in a distribution or warehouse environment. They are also used to identify products sold online.

Do I need one if I only sell in stores or online?

Your GTINs are included in your GS1 Company Licence and are commonly used on purchase orders and in delivery and payment documents. They can be encoded into various types of GS1 barcodes and Electronic Product Codes (EPCs), which are programmed into Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags. Also, they can be used in the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) through data pools and catalogues.

How to Construct a GTIN

 

You'll assign each unique product a separate, unique GTIN. The rules for assigning GTINs help ensure that every variation of an item is assigned a number that is globally unique. You create a GTIN by combining your GS1 Company Prefix number* with a unique product number that you assign, plus a check digit that helps to ensure the GTIN is created correctly. A GTIN, along with a barcode, can be used anywhere in the world.

*Tip: Use your Company Prefix to create GTINs for barcodes. Use the GS1 Company Prefix to create all other identifiers and barcodes. You can find both numbers on your GS1 Company Prefix Certificate. Note: Individual and Basic subscriptions do not have prefixes.  GTINs for these subscription types are printed on your Licence.

For Healthcare providers, please reach out to support for assistance in creating GTINs.

Creating GTIN-12 & GTIN-14

Steps to generate a GTIN-12, (Formerly known as Unique Product Code-UPC)

1 Once you have logged into myGS1 and accessed your company licence, you will need to use the Check Digit Calculator by clicking the link under the ‘Useful Links' tab on your myGS1 home page.

2 Using the check digit calculator, under the Item Reference column, input your 6 to 9-digit company prefix, followed by the Item Reference Number which is the unique product number determined by your company to identify your products.

Please Note: The Item Reference Number length varies depending on the length of your Company Prefix. If your company prefix number is

  • 6 digits then your Item Reference Number will need to be 5 digits,
  • 7 digits then your Item Reference Number will need to be 4 digits,
  • 8 digits then your Item Reference Number will need to be 3 digits,
  • 9 digits then your Item Reference Number will need to be 2 digits,

3 After you have entered your company prefix and the Item Reference Number determined by your company, click on ‘Calculate'. (You should have 11 digits in total)

4 You should then see the full GTIN, under the GTIN format column, including the last digit (Check digit), which is the numeric GS1 Identification Key that ensures the integrity of your GTIN and is now the last digit of your GTIN

5 Once you have your GTIN you can then assign it to your product and generate your barcode using the GS1 Canada Barcode Generator tool.

We recommend you record the complete GTIN(s) and keep track of the products they are assigned to, as GS1 Canada does not currently keep record of your GTIN(s).

Steps to generate a GTIN-14 (SCC Shipping Container Code) for cases & pallets:

1 Once you have logged into myGS1 and accessed your company licence, you will need to use the Check Digit Calculator by clicking the link under the ‘Useful Links' tab on your myGS1 home page.

2 Using the check digit calculator, under the Item Reference column in GTIN-14, input the first digit which is your packaging indicator (PI) — (number assigned from 1-8), followed by a “0” which is a filler digit.

3 Once you have entered the first two digits (PI and filler), input your 6 to 9-digit company prefix, followed by the Item Reference Number which is the unique product number determined by your company to identify your products.

Please Note: The Item Reference Number length varies depending on the length of your Company Prefix. If your company prefix number is

  • 6 digits then your Item Reference Number will need to be 5 digits,
  • 7 digits then your Item Reference Number will need to be 4 digits,
  • 8 digits then your Item Reference Number will need to be 3 digits,
  • 9 digits then your Item Reference Number will need to be 2 digits

4 After you have entered the PI number, the filler digit, your company prefix and the Item Reference Number determined by your company, click on ‘Calculate'. (You should have 13 digits in total)

5 You should then see the full GTIN, under the GTIN format column, including the last digit (Check digit), which is the numeric GS1 Identification Key that ensures the integrity of your GTIN and is now the last digit of your GTIN.

6 Once you have your GTIN you can then assign it to your product and generate your barcode using the GS1 Canada Barcode Generator tool.

We recommend you record the complete GTIN(s) and keep track of the products they are assigned to, as GS1 Canada does not currently keep record of your GTIN(s).

For more information or to contact support, please call GS1 Canada at 1-800-567-7084 or email info@gs1ca.org.

Create your barcodes with GS1 Canada's Barcode Generator.

Barcode Generator is an online tool that allows you to quickly and easily generate high resolution barcodes using your unique GTINs. 

The barcode generator ensures your barcodes comply with all regulatory requirements, rules and formats, and scan correctly every time.

More information about barcoding is available in Step Four.

Identifying Locations (GLN)

To identify a location, you'll need a Global Location Number (GLN)

The GLN is used to identify the locations of parties involved in business transactions. These can be functional groups within a company or real, physical “places” that might ship, receive, process, or hold inventories, like:

  • Legal Entities: Whole companies, subsidiaries or divisions within a company, health system corporations, etc.
  • Functional Entities: Specific departments within a legal entity, such as accounting departments, purchasing departments, hospital pharmacies, etc.
  • Physical Locations: Manufacturing facilities, distribution centres, warehouses, dock doors, hospital wings, bin locations, restaurants, retail stores, etc.

GLNs are commonly used in business transactions such as purchase orders, advance ship notices, and invoices. They are also used within barcodes on logistics labels and on electronic commerce systems such as data synchronization and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

The benefit of using GLNs is to enable standardized location identification that is shared across trading partners. They eliminate confusing variations in location names, eliminate the need to develop and translate different proprietary identification systems, and help to ensure that the right product is delivered to the right place.

 

You create a GLN by combining your issued GS1 Company Prefix number with a unique location number that you assign, plus a check digit that helps to ensure the GLN is created correctly. A GLN is always 13 digits long, so the number of locations you can identify depends on the length of your GS1 Company Prefix.  This can be done using our ECCnet Locations service.

How does ECCnet Locations work?

To initiate this process, you must have a GS1 Company Prefix License and a designated Subscription Administrator within your organization. For information on how the Subscription Administrator sets up users in the system, see the Subscription Administrator Guide.

Once a user is set up in the system, they will receive an email with their user ID and password. Users can then log in to ECCnet Locations and begin to manage their own locations, as well as search for the location information of their trading partners.

To manage their locations, users enter location information, such as address information, and location function (for example, Bill To, Ship To, etc.) and type. ECCnet Locations will assign the unique GLN for that location. Users can then download the full list of their GLNs to update their internal systems. Users can also search for and download a list of their trading partners' GLNs to update their internal systems.

Note: If you have a Basic Subscription with GS1 Canada, you will have already been assigned 1 GLN on your licence upon registration.

If you require assistance or clarification, please feel free to contact us.

There are many formats of barcodes. The barcode format you need for products scanned at point-of-sale (or checkout) are different from the ones you need for products scanned in a distribution centre or a warehouse. So your first step is to consider where your barcode will be scanned:

Point-of-sale (checkout)

If your product will be sold at retail point-of-sale (or checkout), you'll want to use a UPC-A barcode. It is the most common barcode required by retailers in North America. UPC-A barcodes help to ensure that all products are properly identified at retail point-of-sale. The UPC-A barcode promotes rapid product scanning, resulting in more accurate data that can be used by your trading partners.

Online and eCommerce Retail Stores

Many online retailers use the same process as physical stores. Most require that you assign a GTIN to your products. In fact, you should use the same GTIN online as you use for physical stores. As for barcoding your products, many online retailers require that a barcode be placed on your items. As a best practice, you should review your customer's vendor requirements to help you get started.

Inconsistent or incorrect usage of GTINs can make finding and buying products online difficult for consumers—and when consumers can't find what they want when they want it, brands and retailers lose an opportunity for their products to be discovered.

Warehouse

If your products will pass through a warehouse, you will need to identify units such as cartons, cases, and pallets. There are two different barcodes that are most commonly used to identify cases: ITF-14 barcodes and GS1-128 barcodes.

ITF-14 barcodes will contain only the GTIN. The advantage of ITF-14 barcodes is that they can be pre-printed directly onto corrugated material, such as boxes. This saves you time and money.

Once you have your Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) set up, your next step is to create the barcode image and print it correctly on your items. To help ensure that your barcode will scan correctly and efficiently, it's important to follow these guidelines:

Creating the Barcodes

The quality of your barcode is critical for a successful scan. Your barcode could look great on the package and be formatted perfectly; but if it fails to scan, it may require manual keying of the GTIN and could potentially lead to lost sales and market share from customers at checkout. You may also have additional expenses from retailer charge-backs.

You need to use high-resolution artwork and high-resolution printing. Using both means that the lines and spaces in your barcode are clean and readable. To create high-resolution art for an actual barcode digital file yourself, use Barcode Generator, an online resource for GS1 Canada Company Prefix holders. You can use this art to print your labels yourself or send it to a barcode label printer or your package label vendor. As a subscriber you can also turn to a GS1 Canada Solution Provider for your barcode art and printing needs. These providers are trained by GS1 Canada on GS1 Standards for barcodes.

Selecting Colours

The best colour combination for a barcode is black bars with a white background (spaces and quiet zones). If you want to use other colours, follow these guidelines:

Bars

  • GS1 barcodes require dark colours for bars (e.g., black, dark blue, or dark green).
  • Avoid printing the bars in red, or in a reddish colour, like brown. This is because scanning lasers use red light, and red bars are “invisible” to the scanner's red light.
  • Print the bars in a single ink colour—avoid printing them with four-colour process or other multiple-colour process

Background

  • GS1 barcodes require light backgrounds for the quiet zones and spaces
  • In addition to light backgrounds, you can also use "reddish" backgrounds since the scanner light is red and cannot read the red background
  • Typically, you would not print the symbol background. In this case, the background is the colour of the label, package, or package contents (if the package is clear). Be sure to follow the rules below for the background colour

If you do print the background:

  • If you use multiple layers of ink to increase the background opacity, print each layer as a solid.
  • If you use a fine screen to deliver more ink to the background, be sure there are no voids in the print caused by the screen not adequately filling in.

Placement on Packaging

Where you put the barcode on your package can impact the ability of scanners to read your barcode. In general, for an item scanned at checkout, you would put the barcode in the lower right-hand section of the back of the package. Avoid the edge of the package and allow enough white space surrounding the barcode to help to ensure a clean scan. It is also critical that the printed surface be smooth, so nothing interferes with the scanner's ability to read the barcode.

There are other guidelines for bagged items, large/bulky items, curved items, tags, and non-packaged items for checkout in addition to guidelines for items scanned in warehouses or distribution centres.

For details on guidelines for barcode placement, including illustrations with do's and don'ts, read the Symbology Placement Guidelines.

 

Download Symbology Placement Guidelines PDF

 

Selecting The Barcode Size

The size of the barcode within the package design will depend on where you will use the barcode and how you will print the barcode. Barcodes have a fixed relationship between height and width. When one dimension is modified, the other dimension must be altered by a proportional amount.

It is best to print barcodes at their full height and not remove portions to make it fit on the packaging (this is called truncation) since this could result in incorrect scanning. Also, leave a clear, unprinted area on the left and right sides of the barcode (known as the quiet zone). Create your barcode art in the size you will need for your packaging. If you need to change the size of the barcode art, do not shrink or enlarge it - it may not scan correctly. If you need to resize the barcode art, just re-create the barcode in the desired size.

Barcode verification is the best way to ensure scannability so your barcodes scan the first time, every time. Poor quality barcodes cost you time, productivity, and money. Choose from these two options:

  • Barcode Scan Verification
  • Verification Equipment

Barcode Scan Verification

In addition to our own Barcode Scan Verification service, GS1 Canada has solution providers who can test your barcodes for adherence to GS1 Standards through a verification process and the GS1 General Specifications. Testing includes size assessment, colour, print quality, quiet zones, barcode height, location/placement of the barcode, and the correct calculation of the check digit.

Verification Equipment

As an alternative to Barcode Scan Verification, you can purchase your own verification equipment to perform verification yourself or you can choose from one of the GS1 Canada Solution Providers that sell verifiers.

You can share your product and location information electronically with your trading partners. Electronic data sharing has many benefits, including reducing communication errors, increasing the speed of trade transactions, and supporting real-time product information updates. There are multiple ways to share: