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1. Get a Licensed GS1 Company Prefix
You have your product, your business plan, and maybe even some prospective buyers. Now it’s time to take the next step. To sell your product in a store or online, you could be looking for a barcode, a GS1 Company Prefix, a Global Trade Item Number® (GTIN®), a U.P.C., or a GTIN-14.
Whatever your needs, the solution begins with an authorized GS1 Company Prefix. A GS1 Company Prefix is a unique identification number licensed just to your company—and it is part of every barcode and identification number you create. It is the only way to uniquely identify your brand in the global supply chain.
You don’t buy barcodes from GS1 US—you create your own. When you license a GS1 Company Prefix, you get access to GS1 US Data Hub® | Product—our online tool that helps you take the guesswork out of creating and managing barcodes and product identifiers. We also provide referrals to GS1 US Certified Barcode Professionals who can create and print barcodes for you. In addition, you’ll get access to our expert Member Support team, online education and training materials, how-to webinars with GS1 Standards experts, an online member center to access your resources, and more.
1.1 Estimate Your Barcode and Product Identification Needs
Products come in many sizes, colors, and package configurations (e.g. individual boxes or cases). Each of these variations may require a unique identification number. The first step is to identify all the variations you have for each of your unique products. If you and your customer need to distinguish one variation from another, the general rule of thumb is that each product variation will require its own U.P.C. barcode. For example, if you make three t-shirts, but each shirt comes in three sizes (small, medium, large), three styles (short sleeve, long sleeve, ¾ sleeve), three colors (blue, pink, and purple); and three packages (single, 2-pack, 3-pack); you need to identify 81 product variations (3 sizes x 3 styles x 3 colors x 3 packages = 81).
It’s also important to plan for additional product variations for your business growth (over the next year or so) when estimating your barcode needs, since you can't "add capacity" to your prefix. You can always license additional prefixes as your company grows, but you may be able to save time and money by planning for more product variations now.
Use our Barcode Estimator to help figure out your product identification needs:
Access the Barcode Estimator
This tool will help you estimate how many barcodes you will need to create for current and future products.*
*This Estimator tool helps you estimate your barcode capacity, initial fee, and annual renewal fee to license a GS1 Company Prefix.
If you enter different information into the application your fees could change based on your input.
Use this worksheet to help you determine the number of barcodes you will need.
As you click the “Add To List” button, your product will appear in the list below.
Take a look at the samples below to learn how to estimate the number of barcodes you need for a particular item.
1.2 Decide Which GS1 Company Prefix is Right for You
The number in a U.P.C. barcode (called a GTIN) is typically 12 digits long. It starts with your U.P.C. Company Prefix and ends with a check digit. The numbers between the U.P.C. Company Prefix and the check digit are the item reference numbers that you will assign to your products.
GTIN-12 Digit SetupThe U.P.C. Company Prefix length determines how many U.P.C. barcodes you can create.
A GS1 Company Prefix comes in five different “capacities” that allow you to create as few as 10 unique items and as many as 100,000 unique items. Our pricing schedule is based on the number of unique items that you need to identify. Your Initial Fee licenses the Company Prefix to you for one year. After that, you’ll pay the Annual Renewal Fee to continue using the licensed Company Prefix for your barcodes and product identification.
Prefix Pricing Schedule*
*GS1 US reserves the right to change pricing on GS1 Company Prefix(es).**If you need to identify locations, use the same table for pricing.
1.3 Fill Out Our Online Application
Provide your contact information, choose your prefix capacity, and pay online. It’s that easy. Within one business day you’ll get a Welcome Email from GS1 US. It includes all the important information you need to get started, including your prefix certificate and access to myGS1 US—your online member center. You can start creating barcodes right away with GS1 US Data Hub | Product or you can work with a GS1 US Solution Provider to create barcodes for you.
Once you have your prefix using these steps, go to:Step 2. Create Your Product or Location Identification
In this publication, the letters “U.P.C.” are used solely as an abbreviation for the “Universal Product Code” which is a product identification system. They do not refer to the UPC, which is a federally registered certification mark of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) to certify compliance with a Uniform Plumbing Code as authorized by IAPMO.