What Is a Universal Product Code (UPC)? Definition and Guide

what is a upc

What is a UPC Code?

A UPC (universal product code) is a code on a product's packaging that helps identify the item. It has a black barcode that can be scanned and a 12-digit number under it.

The purpose of UPCs is to make it easy to identify product features, such as the brand name, item, size, and color, when an item is scanned at checkout. In fact, that’s why they were created in the first place – to speed up the checkout process at grocery stores. UPCs are also helpful in tracking inventory within a store or warehouse.

To obtain a UPC for use on a product a company has to first apply to become part of the system. GS1 US, the Global Standards Organization, formerly known as the Uniform Code Council, manages the assigning of UPCs within the US.

Parts of a UPC

After paying a fee to join, GS1 assigns a 6-digit manufacturer identification number, which becomes the first six digits in the UPC on all the company’s products. That number identifies the particular manufacturer of the item.

The next five digits of the UPC is called an item number. It refers to the actual product itself. Within each company is a person responsible for issuing item numbers, to ensure that the same number isn’t used more than once and that old numbers referring to discontinued products are phased out.

Many consumer products have several variations, based on, for example, size, flavor, or color. Each variety requires its own item number. So a box of 24 one-inch nails has a different item number than a box of 24 two-inch nails, or a box of 50 one-inch nails.

The last digit in the 12-digit UPC is called the check digit. It is the product of several calculations – adding and multiplying several digits in the code – to confirm to the checkout scanner that the UPC is valid. If the check digit code is incorrect, the UPC won’t scan properly.

Advantages of UPCs

UPCs have a number of advantages to businesses and consumers. Because they make it possible for barcode scanners to immediately identify a product and its associated price, UPCs improve speed, efficiency, and productivity by eliminating the need to manually enter product information.

They also make it possible to track inventory much more accurately than hand counting, to know when more product is needed on retail shelves or in warehouses.

When there is an issue with a particular product and consumers who purchased it need to be alerted or a recall issued, UPCs allow products to be tracked through production to distribution to retail stores and even into consumer homes.

What Is a Universal Product Code FAQ

What is the meaning of universal product code?

The Universal Product Code (UPC) is a unique 12-digit number assigned to each individual product sold in stores and online. It is used to identify and track products as they are sold, shipped, and received. The UPC is also used in inventory control and as a means of price comparison.

What is a universal product code Amazon?

A Universal Product Code (UPC) is a 12-digit number used to uniquely identify a product in a retail setting. UPCs are used by Amazon, and other retailers, to identify and track products for sale. UPCs are printed on product packaging and labels, and can be scanned by customers at check-out to quickly and accurately record product information.

How do I use a universal product code?

  • Look for the barcode on the product you want to purchase. It will usually have a series of numbers and bars beneath it.
  • Scan the barcode at the checkout. Most stores will have a scanner that will read the UPC code.
  • Once the code is scanned, the price of the item will be calculated and added to your total.
  • Pay for your items and take your purchase with you.

Where can I find universal product code?

Universal product codes (UPCs) are typically found on product labels and packaging. They are used to help identify and track products for sale in retail stores.
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