In South Africa, there are two barcodes that are most common. They are the 13 digit EAN barcode (International Article Number) and the 12 digit UPC (Universal Product Code), this originates all the way from the USA. You may have also seen barcodes with only 8 digits in stores. These barcodes are more often seen on smaller products such as packs of sweets and chocolates.
Now you are probably asking yourself, if there is more than one kind, which option would be the best for me?
George Laurer developed the original UPC barcode symbols that have been based on all of today’s EAN and UPC retail barcodes. In terms of GS1 standards, these are virtually the only two that are even accepted. The UPC-A format barcode consists of 12 digits, the very end of which is a mathematical calculated error correcting check digit. Just like the 12 digit code, the 13 digit EAN barcode is just an extension or expansion of the original UPC-A system, this also includes a country code at the beginning of the barcode. This allows any scanner that is able to read an EAN barcode to instantly be able to scan UPC barcodes as well.
There is often differing opinions within South African retailers whether they prefer using the 13 digit EAN barcode system or the original UPC-A 12 digit barcode system. The 13 digit EAN barcode system is often usd by the larger retailer chains such as Shoprite or Checkers. The original 12 digit system is more often used by the smaller shops as they do not have the means to afford such a large system.
Go ahead and check the barcode of your favourite products at your closest stores next time you are shopping and see which system they are using.
And if you need to buy barcodes for your products in South Africa, go to Barcodes South Africa.