GTIN Data Carriers

Data carriers are the barcodes which serve as the vehicle for a GTIN.  Today, 5 data carriers (symbologies) are commonly used to support the GTIN data structure: UPC; EAN; ITF-14; GS1-128; and GS1 Databar.   Of these, ITF-14, GS1-128, and GS1 Databar employ 14-digit data structures of which the 14th character is a packaging level indicator (i.e., item or case). Both UPC and  EAN have an implied packaging level of a single item. Therefore, these data carriers support the GTIN data structure without changing the number of encoded data characters. The table below further illustrates the relationship between GTIN, legacy terminology, symbologies and use at point of sale. In most cases, the legacy terminology and the data carrier are called by the same name. GTIN changes this by separating the name of the data structure from the data carrier or, in this case, the symbology.


GTIN-12 (UPC-12)  


GTIN-13 (EAN/UCC-13)  




GTIN-14 (ITF-14)


GTIN-14 (GS1-128)


GTIN Date Structure Legacy Terminology Symbology Use at POS
GTIN-8 EAN-8 EAN-18 Yes
GTIN-14 EAN/UCC-14 GS1-128 Not Yet
GTIN-14 ITF Symbol,SCC-14,DUN-13,UPC Case Code,UPS Shipping Container Code,UCC Code 128,EAN Code 128 Interleaved 2 of 5 Not Yet



GTIN Background: Sunrise 2005

Sunrise 2005 was an industry initiative established by  GS1 US (formerly the Uniform Code Council) which mandated that as of January 1st 2005, all North American retailers and trading partners that scan Universal Product Codes (UPC) should have expanded the data structures associated with the UPC to a 13-digit field length to process EAN-13 symbols. Additionally, GS1 US recommended that all manufacturers, retailers, and distributors update and expand their databases and applications to accept 14-digit data structures. These data structures will support the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), allowing complete item identification of using a GS1 data carrier to support efficient and seamless global trade.

Many organizations still have not embraced all aspects of the Sunrise 2005 mandate.  Specifically, many organizations have not updated their own databases to always maintain a GTIN in a 14-digit field.  In order to facilitate companies sharing GTIN data in a supply chain, it is imperative for all members of the supply chain to maintain a 14-digit field for GTIN data.

14-digits vs. 13-digits

The Sunrise 2005 initiative was focused on creating a compliant environment for scanning and processing EAN-13 and EAN-8 codes in addition to the 12-digit UPC symbols currently scanned at point-of-sale in North America . While the initiative does not explicitly state inclusion of 14-digit data structures, it is highly recommended that all parties who upgraded their systems for Sunrise 2005 compliance take the additional steps to make their systems compliant with the GTIN. In addition, upgrading systems for GTIN compliance allows scanning of all levels of packaging (ITF-14, or case codes, can be processed) as well as emergent technologies such as RSS (Reduced Space Symbology).

Who did the Sunrise 2005 impact?

  • Those who assigned product numbers – Any organization or manufacturer who assigned product numbers for trade items or services needed to be aware of the new guidelines to ensure compliance with trading partners and suppliers.
  • Those that turned numbers into barcodes – Packagers, commercial printers, and graphics and layout specialists needed to be aware for the new guidelines to ensure compliance for their customers.
  • Those that use barcodes in applications – Retailers, distributors, or any receivers of trade items (which may also include manufacturers and suppliers) needed to be aware of the new guidelines to ensure their own systems are compliant.

What kind of impact did the Sunrise 2005 date have on organizations?

Receivers of trade items must be able to scan 12-digit UPC, EAN-13, & EAN-8 symbols. It is expected that receivers now see 14-digit numbers used to identify all levels of packaging on products as well as emergent codes like GS1 Databar (aka Reduced Space Symbology). All of the above may have manufacturer prefixes that are longer than in the past. If there are any system blocks against reading manufacturer numbers longer than six digits, these must be removed to accommodate the new standards. Suppliers or manufacturers who previously marked their products with 12-digit UPC codes do not need to change their procedures. However, any trade items you purchase may have longer numbers or manufacturer prefixes. Ensure your database storage systems are capable of storing up to 14-digits and do not have any system blocks on manufacturer prefixes longer than six digits. If your company or organization is multi-national, you may already be using longer company prefixes assigned by one or more EAN member organizations.

Data storage and applications requirements checklist:

  • Systems and applications need to expand to accommodate 14-digits.
  • Data structures that require less than 14-digits should be right justified and left zero filled.
  • The full 14-digit structure should be transmitted when communicating GTINs electronically.

Verify GTIN Ownership

The GS1 Number System requires companies to obtain a GS1 Company Prefix which enables brand owners to assign their own GTIN numbers.  Since GS1 Company Prefixes are registered with a GS1 Organization we provide a useful tool which permits a user to determine who is the brand owner.


Definition of GTIN

In order to apply the GS1 numbering system to identify items and cases, it is essential to understand the term GTIN.  GTIN stands for Global Trade Items and refers to all levels of packing which could be purchased and maintained in an inventory system.  A GTIN is the number which is used to identify something which can be purchased, sold or put into inventory.  This includes; individual items which can be purchased by a consumer, as well as cases of items which could be purchased by a retailer and moved within their supply chain.  In short, a GTIN is an umbrella term used to refer to items and cases which may need to identified with a GTIN barcode.

The following 8 minute GS1 Video explains how different barcode terms, including the GTIN are used within the GS1 numbering system.

GTIN Management Standard

GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) provides the global supply chain solution for the identification of any item that is traded (priced, ordered, invoiced). The GTIN Management Standard replaces the previous GTIN Allocation Rules. You will not have to change any previous GTIN assignments. Simply refer to the GTIN Management Standard and Guiding Principles going forward.
To view GTIN Management Rules, please click on the following:


GTIN Management Rules

Sector-specific Rules

To view the GTIN Management Standard from GS1, click here.


To learn about GS1 and additional barcode/numbering requirements, click here.


Data Structures

The full 14-digit GTIN is achieved on a data carrier of shorter length by ‘padding’ the number with left-justified zeros out to 14 digits. See the examples below.


diagram data structures

  • UPC (GTIN-12)

  • ISBN/Books

  • Medical/UDI

  • Supply Chain

  • Assets/Inventory

  • Coupon

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There are a variety of different types of barcodes. However, the UPC (Universal Product Number) symbol is the most recognized barcode in the United States, since it appears on almost every retail product. The UPC symbol is the barcode representation of the GTIN-12 which consists of twelve numeric characters that uniquely identify a company’s individual product. The GTIN-12 number is part of the family of GS1 global data structures that employ 14 digits and can be encoded into various types of data carriers.

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A requirement for selling a book through booksellers, wholesalers, and distributors is the assignment of unique ISBN numbers for each title and for each book to be marked with a Bookland EAN barcode.

The Bookland symbol allows for encodation of ISBNs (the numbers publishers use to identify their products). Since an ISBN is unique to one particular title (or product), the corresponding Bookland EAN symbol is a title-specific marking which is unique for that title. For example, if a title is available in hard cover, soft cover and as an e-book, three unique ISBN Bookland EAN bar codes are required.

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The FDA UDI Mandate is part of a comprehensive healthcare traceability initiative to improve patient safety.  The Unique Device Identifier (UDI) requirement is rooted in holding each member of the supply chain responsible for ensuring each medical device is marked with a UDI barcode with data maintained on the FDA’s GUDID universal database.

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Supply Chain

Logistic barcodes such as the GS1-128 Shipping Label are used to track movement of a shipment within a supply chain.  Since suppliers are making shipments to a variety of trading partners it is essential to integrate the relevant standards and current technology.  The use of EDI and 2D barcodes which can encode much more data has transformed many supply chains.

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The first step in designing an asset tracking system is to determine whether you are working with assets or inventory.  Assets are any items a company uses internally such as tools, equipment, furniture etc.  Inventory are items which are sold, distributed or used by a company.  The distinction between Assets and Inventory is essential in regards to how the items will be marked, scanned and stored.

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The successful integration of GS1 DataBar Coupons has dramatically improved many promotions.  The interhent features including; value codes and automatic expiration date checking for retailers, has enabled more efficient redemption, much better security and better metrics to measure the performance of a campaign.

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