EAN-13 & UPC-A barcodes – which format to use on your products

We supply both the 13 digit superset EAN-13 (European Article Number) and 12 digit subset UPC-A (Universal Product Code) with every standard order.  Each format is numerically and visually identical and both are recognised by retail scanners globally.  Historically the UPC-A format is used in the United States and Canada (North America) while the rest of the world including the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia use the EAN-13 format. If your primary market is the UK we would suggest using the EAN-13 version.  However since 2005 virtually all scanners globally read both formats interchangeably meaning either format can be used in any country.

Note on Scanning: Some retail scanners and P.O.S. systems can be programmed to either include or “drop” a leading zero.   If your product is displaying an EAN-13 and a retailer’s scanning “drops” the leading zero the retailer can simply amend the database entry and enter the 12 digit version into their system (without the leading zero).   Similarly if the scanner is programmed to include the leading zero and your product displays a UPC-A then the retailer can include the barcode with a leading zero on their system.  For most retailers this will be self evident.

Note on using Spreadsheets: When using spreadsheet software such as Excel, Open Office or Numbers a column with cells formatted to 13 consecutive zeros will display the full EAN-13 e.g. 0747599306532  Conversely if the cells are formatted to 12 consecutive zeros the barcode number will be displayed as a UPC-A e.g. 747599306532