What is UPC?

UPC stands for Universal Product Code. It is a barcode and numbering standard used for product identification and tracking in retail, warehousing and distribution. UPC barcodes are exclusively used within North America – contrary to EAN barcodes, which are primarily used in Europe.

What is UPC ?

Universal Product Code definition

A UPC code is a unique combination of digits and bars that represent a specific product. It consists of a machine-readable barcode and a corresponding human-readable 12-digit number, including the check digit. The UPC barcode is scanned at the point of sale, allowing retailers to retrieve product information from their database, such as stock availability and description. Since the price is explicitly not part of the UPC barcode, retail stores can set prices independently using their checkout system.

Examples of UPC barcodes

For example, let’s consider a box of cereal. The manufacturer assigns a unique UPC code to that particular cereal product. The UPC code is printed on the packaging as a barcode along with the corresponding 12-digit number. When the box of cereal is scanned at the checkout counter, the barcode is read by a barcode reader, and the information linked to that UPC code is instantly retrieved by the retailer’s system.

Benefits of UPC codes

UPC, in a broader sense, refers to the entire system that encompasses the unique identification of products through the use of UPC barcodes. It involves the assignment of codes to individual products, the creation of corresponding UPC barcodes, and the implementation of systems to manage and process product information efficiently.

Limitations of UPC codes

UPC codes are one-dimensional barcodes, meaning that they are inadequate for encoding complex information. 1D barcodes have a lower data density than 2D barcodes, such as QR codes or Aztec codes. The 12-digit numerical format of UPC codes restricts the amount of data that can be stored, limiting the UPC barcode’s versatility for applications requiring more extensive data storage or encoding capabilities.

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