GS1 Barcodes are symbols that can be scanned using laser or image-based technology. They are used to encode information, including GS1 Identification keys such as GTINs or SSCCS, and variable information such as batch or lot numbers, expiry date and serial numbers.

Barcodes play a key role in supply chains, enabling parties like retailers, manufacturers, transport providers and hospitals to automatically identify and track products as they move through the supply chain. GS1 utilizes several types of barcodes to satisfy different business processes.

Barcode Types

Different GS1 barcodes have different purposes depending on where they will be scanned and what types of data they need to hold. Some barcodes can even carry additional information called application identifiers, that can add extra information like expiry dates, serial numbers and batch numbers to the information captured within a barcode.

GS1 Barcode Chart

Linear Barcodes

Linear barcode symbols, such as the Universal Product Code (UPC) commonly found on consumer goods, use a series of variable-width lines and spaces to encode data, including the GTIN for product identification.

  • GS1 DataBar
  • GS1-128 and ITF-14


This is a "one-dimensional" (1D) barcode symbology used in retail all over the world.

The EAN/UPC family of symbols consists of the first and most widely deployed GS1 barcodes. EAN/UPC barcodes are suitable for retail point-of-sale (POS) because they are designed for high-volume scanning environments. Applications are limited to GTIN, coupons, and in-store codes.

These barcodes are also applied in general distribution and logistics environments. EAN/UPC minimal sizes are increased when they must be scanned at both retail POS and in general distribution.

View EAN/UPC Chart

GS1 DataBar

This 1D barcode can accommodate additional product attributes such as fresh food weight.

The GS1 DataBar family consists of seven types of barcodes. Four of these barcodes can be scanned at retail, two of which are able to carry additional information such as a serial number, lot number or expiry date. GS1 DataBar is also applied in general distribution and logistics environments.

View GS1 DataBar Chart

GS1-128 and ITF-14

GS1-128 and ITF-14 (Legacy term: Interleaved 2 of 5) barcode symbols are only applied in general distribution and logistics environments, and NOT applied in retail. GS1-128 barcodes can carry all GS1 Identification keys and attributes, while ITF-14 barcodes can only carry the GTIN.

If a barcode containing only the GTIN needs to be printed directly on a corrugated box, then the ITF-14 barcode symbology is often used as it is easier to print, and the required barcode quality grade is less strict.

View GS1-128 and ITF-14 Chart

Two-dimensional (2D) Barcodes

GS1 two-dimensional (2D) barcodes look like squares or rectangles that contain many small individual dots. A 2D barcode can hold significant amounts of information and may remain legible even when printed in a small font or etched onto a product. The "two-dimensional (2D) barcode" symbols that can carry all GS1 Identification Keys (ID Keys), and attributes are:

  • GS1 DataMatrix
  • GS1 QR Code
  • GS1 DotCode
    Exclusively for EU Tobacco Regulation 2018/574.

GS1 DataMatrix

This is a "one-dimensional" (1D) barcode symbology used in retail all over the world.

A single 2D barcode can hold a significant amount of encoded data in a two-dimensional pattern and may remain legible even when printed at a small size or etched onto a product. 2D barcodes can hold more data than 1D barcodes while still appearing physically smaller. It can be applied to hold trade item information such as the item expiry date, and serial number and batch/lot number.

Globally and in Canada for regulated healthcare trade items GS1 DataMatrix is the only allowed 2D barcode.
Canadian Cannabis industry also is implementing GS1 DataMatrix only on their products.

GS1 QR Code

GS1 QR Code, is a subset of ISO/IEC 18004. GS1 QR Code supports GS1 system data structures encoding with GS1 element string syntax, including Function 1 Symbol Character (FNC1). GS1 QR Code SHALL be implemented per approved GS1 system application standards.

GS1 DotCode

The GS1 system has adopted GS1 DotCode based on its ability to encode GS1 identification keys while printing the barcode inline at high production speeds. Implementation of GS1 DotCode SHALL be per approved GS1 system application standard (GS1 General Specifications - Section 2.1.14).
For additional 2D Barcode Technical Information

View GS1 2D Barcodes Chart Note:
DataMatrix or QR Code barcode symbologies can also carry all GS1 Identification keys and attributes when used with the GS1 Digital Link standard.


These resources help explain how to take full advantage of barcodes:

GS1 2D Barcode Introduction
GS1 DataMatrix Guideline ATTENTION!
Since 2018 changes have occurred with the GS1 DataMatrix, see current version of GS1 General Specifications for details (Page 307, Section 5.6).
GS1 2D Barcode Chart
The GS1 Barcode Family Chart
GS1 DataMatrix Barcodes on Pharmaceuticals in Canada