Selling Retail? Managing Inventories? Find out where to go for your UPC.

The Ins and Outs of Where to Get a Barcode


This is an exciting last step for you. It’s the final part of your product label that makes you look “official.” It’s your barcode.


Adding a barcode is a must if you plan to sell your product in any major retailer, but it’s not a government imposed requirement. Although it is not illegal to forego having a barcode on your products, it’s an important addition for many reasons. Here’s three.

Three Reasons to Use a Barcode now

  • Most retailers will require you to have a barcode. If you ever want to sell your products in a retail store, you’ll need to have this on your labels. The costs are based on sales so the earlier you secure your manufacturer number, the lower the cost will be.
  • It helps prevent counterfeiting. Wine, fashion, and pharmaceutical products are most at risk of fraud. With a barcode, you can minimize the risks of your products being counterfeited.
  • It makes inventory tracking easier. The more products you sell, the more valuable this becomes.


Now that you’re sold on the idea of having a barcode, let’s help you find one for your product.

GS1 US: How it Works

GS1 US is a non-profit group that manages international commerce. They are the organization to go to when you need a barcode for your product.


To get started, your business must pay to join GS1 US. Once you’re a member, you’ll have your own identification number. This will be used to create and manage your barcodes and  universal product codes (UPC).


GS1 US membership fees start at $250. There is an annual renewal fee of $50. The fees can fluctuate depending on how many unique products you sell.


What’s in a UPC?

UPCs are 12-digit numbers that appear under your barcode. The first part of the number is your identification number given by GS1 US. The second part of your UPC is the product code. When the codes are generated, a final check digit will be issued to assure accuracy.


It’s vital to have a separate product code for each product you manufacture and sell. This includes having a different product code for each package size you sell.  Without this, it’s harder to track your inventory and sales. There are fees to generate these individual codes for each item which GS1 sells in packages.  

Hiring a Reseller

Some resellers  can also provide you with a barcode. Many resellers have their own GS1 US membership. That means the GS1 US membership fee is waived for you. Instead, you’ll buy your product barcodes through your reseller’s identification number.


This option will work if you only plan to sell one or two products. Keep in mind that it leaves you very little control over your products and very little insight into your sales.  Also, buyer beware, there are unfortunately some unscrupulous companies so you must ensure that you are working with a reputable firm.  


It could also limit the stores you can sell in. Many large retailers ask that you have your own identification numbers. If you plan to sell more than one or two products in a large retail store, you will be better off getting your own GS1 US membership.

Other Barcode Generators

If you do a quick Google search, you’ll probably find that there are other websites where you can buy a barcode for your product, such as


Although I do not always recommend these websites, this one is a fine option recommended by the Wall Street Journal.


Just like having your barcode generated through other resellers, you won’t have to join GS1 US to get your product barcode. Instead, you can buy from the website and have one generated for you. They will typically charge you around $100 per barcode. If you’re bootstrapping your business and your printer does not offer barcodes as an option, this is an alternative.


However, if you plan to use multiple barcodes, it generally proves more cost effective to purchase a bulk group of codes through GS-1.  So be sure to check consider how you will use barcodes in the future.


Your Printer

Once you have your barcode, you can often provide your label printer with the type of code, (UPC, Code 123, EAN, etc.) along with the digits.  Most label companies have the software to enable them to generate a barcode for you.  However, there are some specialty barcodes, (ie GS1 codes) that are more complicated.  Not every printer has the ability to generate these so be sure to ask.  


There is one caveat here.  Not every company that can generate a barcode for you has the ability to generate a Pass/Fail ranking standard.  So you should be very cautious about the policy surrounding the barcodes that they generate.  Ask if they have a policy.  Some companies will guarantee the barcode is readable but may not have a scannability rating.  


Your can also check with  your retailer to see if they have any special requirements.  For instance, most of the major retailers and warehouse chains have specific guidelines concerning code usage, placement and scannability rankings.

Here is an example of our process.  Our codes must pass with a B rating or better. (They usually have an A rating if our other requirements are met.).  The barcode must be at least an 80% or greater of the barcode standard size.  We recommend all codes printed in black with white behind them as scanner read both the black and white space.  There must be sufficient Quiet Zone (the space on each side of the code) as well.  


Depending on the type of code, there are other requirements and suggestions.  


Question: Where do you buy your barcodes?


Having a barcode on your product is a smart idea. It helps you get your product on the shelves of major retailers, track your inventory and prevent counterfeiters from stealing your work. It also makes your packaging design complete, giving your products a more professional finish.


If you’ve never bought your barcode, the cheaper options can seem appealing. However, there are distinct benefits to going through GS1 US, such as having your own identification number and owning your own barcodes.


Here is an offer that is provided by GS1 to help you calculate the number of barcodes needed, the costs and examples of items. barcode estimator


Do you need a barcode number generated for you on your current label or on a standalone label?  We can help walk you through the particulars of what is needed for your type of code. Contact us today to get started.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

  1. I had no idea that the barcode actually helps prevent counterfeiting. I have heard of people using counterfeit money, but never counterfeiting wine. I will have to research it a little more and see if there is a specific way to tell.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}