Not-for-profit organisation
Industry Standards
Founded 26 April 1974
Headquarters Brussels, Belgium
Number of locations
More than 112 offices worldwide[1]
Key people
Miguel A. Lopera (CEO)

GS1 is a not-for-profit organisation that develops and maintains global standards for business communication. The best known of these standards is the barcode, a symbol printed on products that can be scanned electronically. GS1 barcodes are scanned more than six billion times every day.

GS1 has 112 local member organisations and 1.5 million user companies.

GS1 standards are designed to improve the efficiency, safety and visibility of supply chains across physical and digital channels in 25 sectors. They form a business language that identifies, captures and shares key information about products, locations, assets and more.


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, and 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][2]

In 1976, the original 12-digit code was expanded to 13 digits, which opened the doors for the identification system to be used outside the U.S. In 1977, the European Article Numbering Association (EAN) was established in Brussels and with founding members from 12 countries.[3]

In 1990, EAN and UCC signed a global cooperation agreement and expanded 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.[4]

In 2004, EAN and UCC launched the Global Data Synchronisation Network (GDSN), a global, internet-based initiative that enables trading partners to efficiently exchange product master data.[3]

By 2005, the organisation was present in over 90 countries which started to use the name GS1 on a worldwide basis. Whilst "GS1" is not an acronym it refers the organization offering one global system of standards.[3]


Barcodes defined by GS1 standards are very common.[5] They encode a product identification number that can be scanned electronically, making it easier for products to be tracked, processed, and stored.

Barcodes allow for greater safety, reliability, speed and efficiency of supply chains. They have a crucial role in the retail industry, 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][6]

Some of the barcodes that GS1 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.


The most important 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. For example, GTIN, GLN, SSCC.[7]

GS1 also acts as the secretariat for ISO’s Automatic identification and data capture techniques technical committee (ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 31).[8]

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. Together they find and implement standards-based solutions to address common supply chain challenges.



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/Grocery and General Merchandise.

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

As consumers continue to switch between in-store and e-commerce shopping channels, a consistent shopping experience, efficiency, safety and speed are expected. GS1 has developed standards that uniquely identify products for the benefit of consumers and for search engines, providing accurate and complete product information digitally.[9]

Major e-commerce companies such as eBay, Amazon and Google Shopping require companies to use a GS1 number to sell on their websites.[10][11][12]


For many years, GS1 has operated in Healthcare with the primary objective to increase patient safety and drive supply chain efficiency.

Usage of GS1 standards in Healthcare support traceability of products from the manufacturer to the patient, contribute to detect counterfeit products, help to prevent medication errors, enable effective recalls and supports clinical processes.

Regulatory bodies across the world are mandating the implementation of GS1 standards for the above reasons as well for medicines as medical devices.[13]

Other industries

GS1 operates in four other key industries globally: Transport & Logistics, Foodservice, Technical Industries and Humanitarian Logistics. GS1’s Member Organisations in over 100 countries around the world collectively focus on over 25 industry sectors.[14]


GS1 has over 1.5 million members worldwide. Companies can become members by joining a local GS1 Member Organisation.

Governance and structure

GS1’s governance has three levels:

  • Third level - GS1 Global Office and the Local GS1 Member Organisations (MOs). The GS1 Global Office leads the development and maintenance of new standards. Local MOs focus on local services and standards implementation.

There are also two other boards at global level:

  • The GS1 Data Excellence Board (responsible for GS1’s data strategy)
  • GS1 Innovation Board (responsible for GS1 innovation and R&D activities).[14]


GS1 Member Organisations around the world are funded by their local members through annual membership fees and sales of services.


GS1 partners with other international organisations. Some of GS1’s partners are:

See also

List of GS1 country codes


  1. 1 2 3 4 Harford, Tim (2017-01-23). "How the barcode changed retailing and manufacturing". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  2. "The History of the Bar Code". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  3. 1 2 3 "Historic Timeline - GS1 40th Anniversary". Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  4. Anonymous (2014-12-18). "How we got here". Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  5. Robertson, Gordon L. (2016-04-19). Food Packaging: Principles and Practice, Third Edition. CRC Press. ISBN 9781439862421.
  6. GS1UK (2013-12-10), Ever wondered what the GS1 barcode has done for you?, retrieved 2017-04-28
  7. 1 2 "Organizations in cooperation with ISO". Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  8. "ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 31 - Automatic identification and data capture techniques". Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  9. Communications, Edgell. "Tackling Disruptive Forces through Industry Collaboration". Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  10. "Product Identifiers | eBay Seller Center". Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  11. "Amazon Announcement: Product UPCs and GTINs - RepricerExpress". Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  12. "Reach more customers online: Add GTINs to your Google Shopping data feed". Google Commerce. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  13. Anonymous (2014-12-23). "Healthcare". Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  14. 1 2 "GS1 Strategy". Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  15. "Strategic Alliances of The Consumer Goods Forum". Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  16. "NATO Update: NATO's Standardization Agency broadens cooperation - 31 Jan. 2006". Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  17. "E/2015/INF/5 - E". Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  18. "World Customs Organization". Retrieved 2017-04-28.

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