GS1 celebrates 50th anniversary of GTIN

On March 31, 1971, GS1 introduced the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) that transformed the global economy and took commerce towards digitalisation.

GTIN is the code in the barcode that contains product information stored in a database. It uniquely identifies every single product and is the core of the barcode, the most important supply chain standard in history.

The barcode is scanned more than six billion times daily and remains one of the most trusted symbols in the world.

“This is one of the great, untold stories in the history of the modern economy. Half a century ago, fierce competitors came together, put aside their differences and remade global commerce for the better with the development of the GTIN, which in turn led directly to the creation of the barcode. As we celebrate this remarkable milestone, we call on businesses to collaborate once again to meet the needs of the 21st century economy by rapidly deploying and implementing new technologies, including data-rich, next-generation barcodes,” said Kathy Wengel, Executive Vice President and Chief Global Supply Chain Officer of Johnson & Johnson and Chair of GS1 Management Board.

The 1971 historic meeting in New York City brought together the biggest names in groceries, retail and consumer goods at the time, including Heinz, General Mills, Kroger, and Bristol Meyer to create a system to uniquely identify every single product.

GTIN incorporates the International Standard Book Number, International Standard Serial Number, International Standard Music Number, International Article Number, and some Universal Product Codes, into a universal number space.

“I firmly believe that the digitalisation of the GTIN is one of the most significant milestones in the life of our organisation. From the linear EAN/UPC barcode to 2DBarcodes, the need to capture more than just product and pricing information is becoming more urgent and increasingly important. In order to do this successfully we must bring industry together to collaborate and to harmonise,” said Maria Palazzolo, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of GS1 Australia.

GS1 standards such as the barcode continue to help make the vast complexity of modern, global business flow quickly, efficiently and securely, simplifying all kinds of supply chain processes in almost every sector all around the world. However, as consumers demand more and better product information, it is time to bring barcodes to the next level.

Developments toward next generation barcodes, such as QR code which can hold vastly more information, should be used to empower consumers with trusted information and reshape global commerce for a new century. Their use can tell consumers if a product contains allergens, is organic, and even information on its carbon footprint. This provides consumers with a greater level of trust and loyalty relating to the products they buy.