Company typeNot-for-profit organisation
Founded26 April 1974; 50 years ago (26 April 1974)
HeadquartersBrussels, Belgium
Number of locations
116 offices worldwide[1][2]
Key people
Renaud de Barbuat (CEO)
Revenue30,662,000 Euro (2021) Edit this on Wikidata

GS1 is a not-for-profit, international organization developing and maintaining its own standards for barcodes and the corresponding issue company prefixes. The best known of these standards is the barcode, a symbol printed on products that can be scanned electronically.

GS1 has 118 local member organizations and over 2 million user companies. Its main office is in Brussels (Avenue Louise).


In 1969, the retail industry in the US was searching for a way to speed up the check-out process in shops. The Ad Hoc Committee for a Uniform Grocery Product Identification Code was established to find a solution.

In 1973, the Universal Product Code (UPC) was selected by this group as the first single standard for unique product identification. In 1974, the Uniform Code Council (UCC) was founded to administer the standard.[1] On 26 June 1974, a pack of Wrigley's chewing gum became the first ever product with a barcode to be scanned in a shop.[1][3]

In 1976, the original 12-digit code was expanded to 13 digits, which allowed the identification system to be used outside the U.S. In 1977, the European Article Numbering Association (EAN) was established in Brussels, with founding members from 12 countries.[4]

In 1990, EAN and UCC signed a global cooperation agreement and expanded their overall presence to 45 countries. In 1999, EAN and UCC launched the Auto-ID Centre to develop Electronic Product Code (EPC), enabling GS1 standards to be used for RFID.[5]

In 2004, EAN and UCC launched the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN), a global, internet-based initiative that enables trading partners to efficiently exchange product master data.[4]

By 2005, the organisation was present in over 90 countries, and it started to use the name GS1 on a worldwide basis. Whilst "GS1" is not an acronym, it refers to the organisation offering one global system of standards.[4]

In August 2018, the GS1 Web URI Structure Standard was ratified, allowing unique ID's to be added to products by storing a URI (a webpage-like address) as a QR code.[6]


The GS1 barcodes

Barcodes defined by GS1 standards are very common.[7] GS1 introduced the barcode in 1974.[8] A barcode encodes a product identification number that can be scanned electronically, making it easier for products to be tracked, processed, and stored.

Barcodes improve the efficiency, safety, speed and visibility of supply chains across physical and digital channels. They have a crucial role in the retail industry, including today's online marketplaces, moving beyond just faster checkout to improved inventory and delivery management, and the opportunity to sell online on a global scale. In the UK alone, the introduction of the barcode in the retail industry has resulted in savings of 10.5 billion pounds per year.[1][9]

Some of the barcodes that GS1 developed and manages are: EAN/UPC (used mainly on consumer goods), GS1 Data Matrix (used mainly on healthcare products), GS1-128, GS1 DataBar, and GS1 QR Code. Notably, GS1 barcodes can hold more than just a single numerical identifiers, as GS1 has defined a modular & arbitrarily combinable semantic encoding of defined data within GS1 barcodes through the publication of over 150 "Application Identifiers" (AI).[10] These AIs allow encoding of details such as the GTIN - AI:(01), the "Country of Origin" - AI:(422), and the "Expiration date" - AI:(17), amongst many other possibilities, including URLs - AI:(8200).[10]


The most influential GS1 standard is the GTIN. It identifies products uniquely around the world and forms the base of the GS1 system.

Main GS1 standards are as follows:

Many GS1 standards are also ISO standards, including the GTIN, GLN, and SSCC.[11]

GS1 also acts as the secretariat for ISO's Automatic identification and data capture techniques technical committee (ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 31).[12]

GS1 standards are developed and maintained through the GS1 Global Standards Management Process (GSMP), a community-based forum that brings together representatives from different industries and businesses.


Retail and marketplaces

Retail was the first industry that GS1 began working with and has remained their primary focus. Today, GS1 operates in four retail sub-sectors on a global level: Apparel, Fresh Foods, CPG and General Merchandise.

Key focus areas in retail include sustainability, data quality, compliance with regulatory requirements, traceability of products[13] from their origin through delivery, and upstream integration between manufacturers and suppliers.

As consumers are recurring to e-commerce more often throughout the years, GS1 has developed standards that uniquely identify products for the benefit of consumers and for search engines, providing accurate and complete product information digitally.[14]

Major e-commerce companies such as eBay, Amazon and Google Shopping require companies to use a GS1 GTIN to sell on their websites.[15][16][17]


Since 2005, GS1 has operated in Healthcare with the primary objective to enhance patient safety, and to drive supply chain efficiencies.

More than 70 countries have healthcare-related regulations or trading partner requirements where GS1 standards are being used for the above reasons as well for medicines as medical devices. Members of GS1 Healthcare include more than 140 leading healthcare organisations worldwide.[18]

Other industries

GS1 operates three other key industries globally: Transport & Logistics, Food service and Technical Industries. GS1's 118 Member Organisations in 150 countries around the world collectively focus on dozens of industry sectors.[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Harford, Tim (23 January 2017). "How the barcode changed retailing and manufacturing". BBC News. Archived from the original on 19 March 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  2. ^ "GS1 grows by adding two new Member Organisations | GS1". Archived from the original on 21 October 2020. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  3. ^ "The History of the Bar Code". Smithsonian. Archived from the original on 7 May 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "Historic Timeline - GS1 40th Anniversary". Archived from the original on 17 July 2019.
  5. ^ Anonymous (18 December 2014). "How we got here". Archived from the original on 19 May 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  6. ^ "GS1 Web URI Structure Standard" (PDF). GS1. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 August 2019. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  7. ^ Robertson, Gordon L. (19 April 2016). Food Packaging: Principles and Practice, Third Edition. CRC Press. ISBN 9781439862421.
  8. ^ GS1 - Organisation that manages the barcode standard used by retailers, manufacturers and suppliers, archived from the original on 1 April 2019, retrieved 1 April 2019
  9. ^ GS1UK (10 December 2013), Ever wondered what the GS1 barcode has done for you?, archived from the original on 21 December 2021, retrieved 28 April 2017((citation)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ a b "GS1 General Specifications Standard". GS1. Archived from the original on 11 May 2023. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  11. ^ "Organizations in cooperation with ISO". Archived from the original on 5 April 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  12. ^ "ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 31 - Automatic identification and data capture techniques". Archived from the original on 11 May 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  13. ^ "Traceability". 27 January 2020. Archived from the original on 27 June 2021. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  14. ^ Communications, Edgell. "Tackling Disruptive Forces through Industry Collaboration". Archived from the original on 4 February 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  15. ^ "Product Identifiers | eBay Seller Center". Archived from the original on 14 May 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  16. ^ "Amazon Announcement: Product UPCs and GTINs - RepricerExpress". 30 June 2016. Archived from the original on 16 January 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  17. ^ "Reach more customers online: Add GTINs to your Google Shopping data feed". Google Commerce. Archived from the original on 30 July 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  18. ^ Anonymous (23 December 2014). "Healthcare". Archived from the original on 7 May 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  19. ^ "GS1 Strategy". Archived from the original on 17 January 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2017.