The Global Language of Business


The GTIN or Global Trade Item Number identifies items that are traded. Trading Partners use GTINs to communicate about items that they price, order or invoice and this supports the automation of business processes. Trade Items are those that are always produced in the same version and composition (e.g., type, size, weight, contents, and design) that may be sold at any point in the supply chain.

The GTIN is an identification number but does not include information about the item it identifies. That information is held in databases and can be accessed using the GTIN as the key. The use of the GTIN enables the following:

  • retail point-of-sale scanning
  • electronic ordering
  • goods inwards
  • inventory management
  • sales analysis
  • data alignment and a wide range of other business applications.

GTINs are numeric and are terminated with a Check Digit. They are composed using one of the four data structures: GTIN-8; GTIN-12; GTIN-13; or GTIN-14.

When any of these GTINs is used in a data carrier or other application requiring a fixed-length data string of 14-digits, the GTINs less than 14-digits in length must be prefixed by one or more leading zeroes. These leading zeroes simply act as filler characters. The presence or lack of these leading zeroes does not change the GTIN concerned.

GTIN-14 data structure

IndicatorGTIN of the items contained
(without check digit)

GTINs can be represented in a machine readable format called a barcode.