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EAN-13 And UPC-A Barcode Formats


Sahdiya MammoottyDec. 11, 2019

EAN-13 and UPC-A Barcode formats

A barcode symbol is a machine readable image which conveys data. Barcodes can be one dimensional or two dimensional. There are many types of barcodes that are use to track products, mail, and people. The most predominantly used barcodes are EAN-13 and UPC-A.


EAN is an acronym of European Article Number. It is also call as International Article Number. It is a standard describing a barcode symbology and numbering system use in global trade to identify a specific retail product type, in a specific packaging configuration, from a specific manufacturer. EAN-13 uses what is call "variable-length manufacturer codes". EAN-13 may issue it a longer manufacturer code, leaving less space for the product code. This results in more efficient use of the available manufacturer and product codes.


The Universal Product Code (UPC) is a barcode symbology that is widely used in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries for tracking trade items in stores.

UPC-A Barcodes are effectively a subset of EAN-13 Barcodes. If the first digit on the EAN-13 number is a ‘0’, then the bars will be of both the EAN-13 and UPC-A (without the leading ‘0’) will be identical. The displacement of the human readable numbers below differ between the UPC-A and EAN-13 barcodes however, this is the biggest difference. Both barcodes can be scan by the majority of scanners easily.


UPC-A Format barcodes have traditionally been use in the USA. Whereas the other have been use throughout the rest of the world. Nowadays, the majority of stores throughout the world accept barcodes in either format. However, there may be some older systems that only accept one or the other. This means that if your product is to be sell in the USA , the UPC-A format barcodes are best. However if your product is international, or sold in a country other than the USA, an EAN-13 Barcode is best.

If you come across a store that has difficulty in reading both your barcodes, they can either ignore the leading ‘0’ or add a leading ‘0’. It depends on how many digits their system prefers. If this is done, the barcode will read exactly the same as the opposite format (as the bars are identical regardless), and will still be globally unique.

UPC (technically refers to UPC-A) consists of 12 numeric digits that are uniquely assign to each trade item.


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