50 years ago, the GS1 barcode was created to transform grocery shopping and empower more reliable and resilient supply chains
Industry leaders came together to transform the way we shop and created the barcode. From that point forward, a simple scan at checkout connected a physical product to its digital identity—and information that could be shared in stores and throughout the supply chain. Since then, GS1 standards have powered more reliable and transparent supply chains across industries.
Digital transformation, powered by GS1, will unlock limitless possibilities for businesses, people and the planet
Our future has never looked brighter. New multipurpose 2D barcodes powered by GS1 standards are transforming a simple scan, opening a gateway of in-depth product information. Whether on an in-store scanner or a mobile phone, they will create new opportunities to improve business operations, consumer experiences, patient safety and sustainability initiatives.
Watch the ‘Generations of progress’ 50th anniversary video
Explore our history
On 3 April 1973, industry leaders in the U.S. retail grocery sector created the barcode—an innovation that has revolutionised our modern economy and society.
The U.S.-based Uniform Code Council (UCC) is appointed as administrator of the new Universal Product Code (U.P.C) barcode. On 26 June—in a Marsh supermarket located in Ohio—a pack of Wrigley’s gum becomes the first product in the world to be scanned with a barcode.
The European Article Numbering Association (EAN®) is established as an international, not-for-profit standards organisation in Brussels, Belgium. The new EAN barcode is fully-compatible with the U.P.C barcode in the U.S.
Traditional barcodes are expanded and used beyond checkout counters for wholesale multipacks, cases and cartons.
GS1® publishes its first international standard for electronic data interchange (EDI), creating an efficient, secure and automated way for trading partners to seamlessly exchange information and communicate with one another.
GS1 expands into the healthcare sector, deploying standards to increase patient safety, drive supply chain efficiencies—and improve the identification and traceability of medical products.
Specifications for the GS1 DataBar® are approved. These “reduced space” and stacked barcodes can identify small items like jewelry and fresh foods—and carry more information than traditional barcodes.
At the start of the new millennium, GS1 is present in 90 countries.
GS1’s Global Standards Management Process (GSMP) is launched, providing a neutral setting for industry to discuss common business challenges and establish new standards-based solutions for their businesses.
EPCglobal, Inc. is formed to innovate and develop standards for the Electronic Product Code (EPC) and to support the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, ultimately improving inventory accuracy and increasing supply chain visibility.
The GS1 DataMatrix is approved and is the first two-dimensional barcode adopted by GS1.
The GS1 Global Data Synchronisation Network (GS1 GDSN) is launched. This product data network makes it possible for any company, anywhere, to seamlessly share high-quality product information.
The UCC and EAN merge, creating a single, international organisation with 101 local GS1 Member Organisations.
GS1 launches the first global traceability standard, paving the way for improved supply chain interoperability and transparency.
As e-commerce grows, GS1 enters the business-to-consumer (B2C) world, exploring standards to give consumers direct access to product information through their mobile devices.
GS1 receives accreditation by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) as an issuing agency for the unique identifiers (UDIs) used to globally and uniquely identify medical devices.
GS1 builds a new global strategy to respond to the demands of digital, omni-channel commerce, including ratification of their first “digital” standard.
The BBC names the GS1 barcode one of “the 50 things that made the world economy”.
GS1 expands into the financial sector as an accredited issuer of Legal Entity Identifiers (LEIs), the codes that uniquely identify companies participating in financial transactions.
The GS1 Registry Platform (GRP) is established as a trusted source of GS1 Company Prefixes (GCPs), the Global Trade Item Number® (GTIN®), or barcode numbers and GS1 Global Location Numbers (GLNs). Verified by GS1 makes it possible for users to leverage the platform: brand owners can share basic data about their products and retailers and marketplaces can verify the identity of the products they sell.
The GS1 Digital Link standard leverages QR codes to help connect consumers to rich amounts of brand-authorised data on the web, including product information, promotions, ingredients, recipes—and more.
GS1 supports industry with an ambition to read two-dimensional barcodes—QR codes and GS1 DataMatrix barcodes—at retail points-of-sale around the world by the end of 2027.
A joint World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Economic Forum (WEF) report outlines the power of GS1 product and location identification to make cross-border trade more efficient, inclusive and sustainable.
GS1 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the barcode together with its family of 116 local GS1 Member Organisations (MOs). Over 1 billion products now carry GS1 barcodes that are scanned billions of times every day around the world.
Celebrating GS1's 50 years and beyond with our MOs testimonies
As we look into the next 50 years, we will look back at our GS1 Member Organisations greatest achievements since their founding and learn about the exciting plans they have for the future. Here are their stories.