The Global Language of Business

50 years of transforming tomorrow



50 years ago, the GS1 barcode was created to transform grocery shopping and empower more reliable and resilient supply chains

On 3 April 1973, an industry-wide agreement was made that changed the course of global commerce and gave rise to GS1.

GS1 barcode 50

Industry leaders came together to transform the way we shop and created the barcode. From that point forward, a simple scan at checkout connected a physical product to its digital identity—and information that could be shared in stores and throughout the supply chain. Since then, GS1 standards have powered more reliable and transparent supply chains across industries.

Digital transformation, powered by GS1, will unlock limitless possibilities for businesses, people and the planet

Our future has never looked brighter.

2021New multipurpose 2D barcodes powered by GS1 standards are transforming a simple scan, opening a gateway of in-depth product information.

Whether on an in-store scanner or a mobile phone, they will create new opportunities to improve business operations, consumer experiences, patient safety and sustainability initiatives.

2D barcodes in retail 

GS1 Digital Link

To discuss how GS1 standards can help transform your business, build better engagement with your customers or to meet regulatory requirements contact us today or call us on 01 208 0660.

Explore our history


On 3 April 1973, industry leaders in the U.S. retail grocery sector created the barcode—an innovation that has revolutionised our modern economy and society.


The U.S.-based Uniform Code Council (UCC) is appointed as administrator of the new Universal Product Code (U.P.C) barcode. On 26 June—in a Marsh supermarket located in Ohio—a pack of Wrigley’s gum becomes the first product in the world to be scanned with a barcode.


The European Article Numbering Association (EAN®) is established as an international, not-for-profit standards organisation in Brussels, Belgium. The new EAN barcode is fully-compatible with the U.P.C barcode in the U.S.


Traditional barcodes are expanded and used beyond checkout counters for wholesale multipacks, cases and cartons.


GS1® publishes its first international standard for electronic data interchange (EDI), creating an efficient, secure and automated way for trading partners to seamlessly exchange information and communicate with one another.


GS1 expands into the healthcare sector, deploying standards to increase patient safety, drive supply chain efficiencies—and improve the identification and traceability of medical products.


Specifications for the GS1 DataBar® are approved. These “reduced space” and stacked barcodes can identify small items like jewelry and fresh foods—and carry more information than traditional barcodes.


At the start of the new millennium, GS1 is present in 90 countries.


GS1’s Global Standards Management Process (GSMP) is launched, providing a neutral setting for industry to discuss common business challenges and establish new standards-based solutions for their businesses.


EPCglobal, Inc. is formed to innovate and develop standards for the Electronic Product Code (EPC) and to support the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, ultimately improving inventory accuracy and increasing supply chain visibility.


The GS1 DataMatrix is approved and is the first two-dimensional barcode adopted by GS1.

The GS1 Global Data Synchronisation Network (GS1 GDSN) is launched. This product data network makes it possible for any company, anywhere, to seamlessly share high-quality product information.


The UCC and EAN merge, creating a single, international organisation with 101 local GS1 Member Organisations.


GS1 launches the first global traceability standard, paving the way for improved supply chain interoperability and transparency.


As e-commerce grows, GS1 enters the business-to-consumer (B2C) world, exploring standards to give consumers direct access to product information through their mobile devices.


GS1 receives accreditation by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) as an issuing agency for the unique identifiers (UDIs) used to globally and uniquely identify medical devices.


GS1 builds a new global strategy to respond to the demands of digital, omni-channel commerce, including ratification of their first “digital” standard.


The BBC names the GS1 barcode one of “the 50 things that made the world economy”.


GS1 expands into the financial sector as an accredited issuer of Legal Entity Identifiers (LEIs), the codes that uniquely identify companies participating in financial transactions.


The GS1 Registry Platform (GRP) is established as a trusted source of GS1 Company Prefixes (GCPs), the Global Trade Item Number® (GTIN®), or barcode numbers and GS1 Global Location Numbers (GLNs). Verified by GS1 makes it possible for users to leverage the platform: brand owners can share basic data about their products and retailers and marketplaces can verify the identity of the products they sell.


The GS1 Digital Link standard leverages QR codes to help connect consumers to rich amounts of brand-authorised data on the web, including product information, promotions, ingredients, recipes—and more.


GS1 supports industry with an ambition to read two-dimensional barcodes—QR codes and GS1 DataMatrix barcodes—at retail points-of-sale around the world by the end of 2027.


A joint World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Economic Forum (WEF) report outlines the power of GS1 product and location identification to make cross-border trade more efficient, inclusive and sustainable.


GS1 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the barcode together with its family of 116 local GS1 Member Organisations (MOs). Over 1 billion products now carry GS1 barcodes that are scanned billions of times every day around the world.


GS1 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first barcode scan. #scanniversary

TRANSITION TO QR CODES Joint Industry Letter 22 leaders from some of the world’s biggest companies sign a global joint statement calling for the transition to QR Codes with GS1 standards    

To discuss how GS1 standards can help transform your business, build better engagement with your customers or to meet regulatory requirements contact us today or call us on 01 208 0660.

GS1 is a neutral, not-for-profit organisation that provides global standards for efficient business communication. We are best known for the barcode, named in 2016 by the BBC as one of “the 50 things that made the world economy.” GS1 standards improve the efficiency, safety and visibility of supply chains across physical and digital channels in 25 sectors. We enable organisations of all types and sizes to identify, capture and share information seamlessly. Our scale and reach – local Member Organisations in 116 countries, more than 2 million user companies and over 10 billion transactions every day – help ensure that GS1 standards create a common language that supports systems and processes across the globe.