Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is a GS1 Identification Key that can be used by a company to uniquely identify all their trade items. GS1 defines trade items as products or services that are priced, ordered or invoiced at any point in the supply chain. GTINs uniquely identify the objects that are moving throughout supply chains and create the connection between physical and information flows within supply chain, thus enabling product traceability.

A GTIN can be encoded into a barcode. It also can be used to identify product packaging, including a pallet, case and inner. Various business processes are enhanced by leveraging the GTIN, such as point-of-sale, warehouse or inventory management, and also distribution and logistics. Additionally, GTINS are used in marketplaces online to authenticate a product.

A GTIN is non-reusable and is permanently assigned to each unique product or service.

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Benefits of a GTIN

  • Reduces confusion by accurately identifying products or services within the supply chain.
  • Standardizes product and service identification between trading partners.
  • Fights product counterfeiting in the supply chain.
  • Saves time and frees up resources by eliminating manual processes.
  • Enables automation, including barcode scanning, along the entire supply chain.
  • Increases the efficiency of payment and reporting processes.
  • Simplifies product listing with trading partners.
  • Enhances traceability by enabling tracking and tracing a product throughout the supply chain.
  • Streamlines product recall process.


Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is comprised of three parts: a company prefix, an item reference number and a check digit.

  1. Company Prefix uniquely identifies the organization.
  2. Item Reference Number is assigned by you.
  3. Check Digit is the last digit which ensures the GTIN is correctly constructed.
Check Digit Calculator

Various GTIN types are used for different business use cases. All GTIN types can be encoded into different barcode symbologies.

For instance, GTIN-12 and GTIN-13 are approved for retail point-of-sale applications. For logistic units, consisting of a homogeneous grouping, GTIN-14, GTIN-12 or GTIN-13 may be used.

Encoding types
  • UPC-A and UPC-E barcode symbologies carry GTIN-12.
  • EAN-13 barcode symbology carry GTIN-13.
  • ITF-14, GS1-128, GS1 DataBar™ family and GS1 DataMatrix carry multiple GTIN types.

Questions to ask when planning your products or services. Remember to include your “logistics” business processes too:

  • How many products do I have?
  • How many packaging and shipping levels do I have?
  • Do I need to identify my product down to the single unit of use or the each?
  • Do I sell product by the case?
  • How many sizes, flavours or variations do I have? For example, low-fat or sugar-free?

Every product that is different or packaged differently, or shipped in different configurations, such as pallets or cases, will require a GTIN. This is because each GTIN is unique to a single product packaging level or a service.

  1. Pre-work includes estimating the number of GTINs your business will need.
  2. Subscribe to GS1 Canada to license your GTINs or a Company Prefix.
  3. Obtain instruction guidelines and training, then watch the videos from "Resources & Tools".
  4. Ensure your company's internal systems will accommodate all your GTINs.
  5. Assign and record each GTIN with each product or service.
  6. Create your barcodes by encoding your GTINs in them.
  7. Affix your barcodes to your product packaging.


The GTIN provides a global supply chain solution by uniquely identifying any trade item that may be priced, ordered or invoiced at any point in the supply chain and upon which there is a need to retrieve pre-defined information. Unique identification of trade items is critical to maintaining operational efficiencies that business partners rely on to exchange information about products in consistent ways, as well as ensuring the smooth operations of global supply chains. Overall, costs are minimized when all partners in the supply chain adhere to the GTIN Management Standard. The GTIN Management standard has been developed to address the question: When do I need to assign a new GTIN?

Guiding principles

The following guiding principles should be considered by any brand owner when introducing changes to an existing product and also when developing a GTIN assignment strategy for a new product.

At least one of the guiding principles must apply for a GTIN change to be required.

  • Is a consumer and/or trading partner expected to distinguish the changed or new product from previous/current products?

  • Is there a regulatory/liability disclosure requirement to the consumer and/or trading partner?

  • Is there a substantial impact to the supply chain (e.g., how the product is shipped, stored, received)?