Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of the Barcode's Debut!

The History

On June 26, 1974, a pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum with a Universal Product Code (U.P.C.*) was scanned at a Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio. With a simple scan commerce was changed forever.

The result of years of collaboration by inventors and the grocery industry, barcodes enabled brands and retailers to automatically capture product information, reduce human error and minimize long supermarket checkout lines brought on by the influx of post-World War II baby boom shoppers.

The ability to identify products anywhere around the world is fundamental to enabling the next generation technology."Bob Carpenter
President and Chief Executive Officer, GS1 US

The Impact

Today, more than six billion barcodes are scanned each day across the globe, connecting brands and consumers, streamlining the in-store experience, and helping shoppers find the things they need online.

Since the advent of the original U.P.C., the barcode has evolved to suit modern needs.

  • QR codes provide consumers with detailed product information and support mobile scanning applications.
  • Radio frequency identification (RFID) offers shoppers faster delivery and more purchase flexibility such as buy-online pick up in store.
  • Barcodes also help to locate products quickly during a recall or identify counterfeit goods so that they can be removed from stock.

Watch the video to see an overview of the barcode.

The Future

Building on the same pioneering spirit established in 1974, the digital era is propelling a new generation of commerce. Web-enabled barcodes will leverage a product's unique identity to provide online shoppers with a direct link to more trustworthy and useful product information, enhancing their shopping experience.

*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.