The Global Language of Business
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How we got here

Since 1973, we have opened offices in over 110 countries and amassed more than 2 million members using supply chain standards that make business easier. Learn about key dates in our history.

It all began with a barcode


Beep! On 26 June 1974, a packet of chewing gum became the first barcoded product to be scanned in store. Today, barcodes play a crucial supply chain role, ensuring products hit retail shelves at the right times.

We manage the barcode standard used by retailers, manufacturers and suppliers. If you want to put a barcode on an item that can be scanned anywhere in the world, you need to talk to us.

  • 1971

    Industry Agreement to Collaborate

    Industry leaders agree to use a “universal product code” for product identification. This identifier is called the Global Trade Item Number, or GTIN, today.

  • 1973

    The barcode standard is agreed

    Industry leaders in the US select a single standard for product identification. Still used today, it’s known as the GS1 barcode.

  • 1974

    The first barcode is scanned

    On 26 June, a packet of chewing gum becomes the first barcoded product to be scanned in a supermarket.

  • 1977

    The GS1 system is launched

    The European Article Numbering (EAN) Association — later called GS1 — opens an office in Brussels. Its founding members launch an identification system to improve supply chain efficiency.

  • 1983

    Barcodes are used on wholesale multi-packs

    As barcodes have proved their reliability and usefulness in real-world environments, they are extended and used on product outer cases.

  • 1989

    GS1 moves beyond barcodes

    With wide area networks making an impact on supply chains, we create our first international standard for electronic data interchange.

  • 1990

    Responsibilities grow

    The US and international arms of GS1 come together formally, creating a single organisation with a presence in 45 countries.

  • 1995

    First healthcare standards created

    We expand our work into the healthcare sector, working closely with healthcare bodies and providers.

  • 2000

    90th local office opens

    In just ten years, we double the number of countries in which we have a local presence.

  • 2002

    Global standards forum launched

    Our Global Standards Management Process is launched. This global forum gives GS1 members one place to discuss standards.

  • 2004

    The first standard for RFID is created

    With Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Chips becoming more common, we create a standard for their implementation and use.

  • 2007

    GS1 enters the business-to-consumer world

    As ecommerce grows, we begin to create open standards that give consumers direct access to key product information.

  • 2013

    A 40-year celebration

    With a presence in over 100 countries and more than a million members, we celebrate 40 years of the global language of business.

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