Celebrating 40 years of industry collaboration and innovation with GS1.


These following facts and figures are provided as background information and context for the 40th Anniversary celebration of GS1.

  • GS1 is a neutral international not-for-profit association dedicated to the design and implementation of a series of global standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply and demand chains globally and across sectors.
  • The GS1 system of standards is the most widely used supply chain standards system in the world, and is currently being used in 150 countries.
  • GS1 is governed by a Management Board composed of key leaders and drivers from multi-nationals, retailers, manufacturers and GS1 Member Organisations. As a result, the GS1 management board has a global, multi-sectorial make-up.
  • GS1 has almost two million users and 111 Member Organisations.


The 40th Anniversary Logo
Photos of first barcode scan at a Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio
Celebratory events around the world
Other photos and graphics to illustrate the barcode

Historic Timeline

Over the past forty years, we have seen remarkable innovations take root through the hard effort of industry collaboration.

Book: The Secret Life of Barcodes

As former chairman of GS1 (1994-1997), John Berry helped to lead the adoption of the barcode. 13 years ago, Berry started writing a book about GS1 and the barcodes. Now, as GS1 celebrates its 40th anniversary, Berry finished the book. What he has achieved is a story that he calls "a page-turner with a Wow! factor. It was worth the wait."

"The Secret Life of Bar Codes" is available on Amazon


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Press Release

Marsh holds place of honor in history of GS1 barcode

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 26, 2013 — From warehouse loading docks to small retail shops, workers engaged in the global supply chain and shoppers worldwide will hear the familiar beep of the GS1 barcode as many as 5 billion times today. It's likely, though, that none of them will realize that each of those beeps marks a historic milestone in the life of the first tracking and traceability solution in the GS1 System of Standards.

Today is the 40th anniversary of the first product to be scanned with a GS1 barcode (formerly UPC code).

Forty years ago, on June 26, 1974, Sharon Buchanan was the first cashier to scan a GS1 barcode at a Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio (USA) and Clyde Dawson, director of research and development for Marsh became the first person to purchase a product with a price labeled on the package. That item was a 10-pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum that cost 67 cents.

"Imagine if there was no barcode," said Miguel Lopera, President and CEO of GS1, a neutral, global not-for-profit organisation based in Brussels, Belgium with member organisations in more than 110 countries that oversees most of the barcodes used in the world today. "Can you imagine the lines at the checkouts? Can you imagine how frustrated consumers would be? Just imagine what it would be like one day at a hyper market, a supermarket, if one day the scanner didn’t work and checkout clerks had to manually punch in the barcode on every item. From a business perspective, imagine how the barcode enables a little manufacturer in India to sell his product any place in the world because the label can be read in any country in any language."

"Since its beginnings in the 1930s, Marsh has been on the forefront of change and growth in the supermarket industry," said Tom O'Boyle, CEO and President of Marsh Supermarkets. "Our store in Ohio was near the NCR scan study and development facility and we worked closely together with them, IBM and Spectra Physics to bring the idea to fruition. It seems quite unbelievable that a single event in Troy, Ohio could launch a technological revolution that touches businesses of all kinds around the world."

"You think of how many scans are going through the checkout counter every day," said Tim Smucker, Chairman of the Board of The J.M. Smucker Company and Vice Chairman and Chairman Emeritus of the GS1 Management Board. "It’s in the billions. That touches everybody’s life and improves the value of the shopping experience. I don't think anything has had a greater impact on facilitating commerce around the world than the barcode."

Barcodes are the most well known and universally recognized part of the GS1 System of Standards, the most widely used supply chain standards system in the world. The system is based on global standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply and demand chains globally and across sectors and was designed and implemented by GS1. GS1 tracking and tracing solutions allow companies worldwide to uniquely identify their physical things, such as trade items (products and services), assets, logistic units, shipments, physical locations, and logical things like a corporation or a service relationship between provider and recipient.

When this powerful identification system is combined with the GS1 barcode and other solutions in the GS1 System of Standards, companies, including those that compete against each other, are able to make a connection between these physical or logical things and the information the supply chain needs about them. When that connection is made, GS1 has accomplished its goal of creating one world of global commerce.

"This is something that is quite unique to the retail sector," said Lopera. "And when I look at the future, my dream is that this can happen in many other sectors because we can add a standard, our global standard, to any sector. And everybody, the companies, the communities, the consumer, can benefit from that."

"The process of bringing communities together and finding shared values and solutions is every bit as important as the solutions themselves," said Smucker. "And that process is the culture of the GS1 organisation. The process is applied to food because it provides transparency and traceability that enhance food safety and food security. Saving waste in the food industry is tremendously valuable to our company and to the industry in general. Solving the problems that lead to food waste will have a huge benefit for the future of the world and mankind."

Read more about the 40th Anniversary at:

Contact Details: Antoinette Jansen, Global Events Manager at GS1: antoinette.jansen@gs1.org

About GS1

GS1 is a neutral, not-for-profit, international organisation that develops global standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply chains across industries. It engages a global community of trading partners, industry organisations and technology providers to understand their business needs and develops global standards in response to those needs. GS1 is driven by close to two million user organisations, in over 20 industries including retail & consumer goods, healthcare, transport & logistics, and more. Today, the GS1 System of standards is the most widely used supply chain standards system in the world. GS1 has local Member Organisations in over 110 countries and its head office is in Brussels. For more information, visit www.gs1.org.

About Marsh Supermarkets

Headquartered in Indianapolis, Marsh operates 61 Marsh Supermarkets, 15 MainStreet Markets and 3 O'Malia's Food Markets in Indiana and Ohio, with 40 Indiana pharmacy locations. Marsh has the distinction of being the first grocery store in the world to use electronic scanners to ring up purchases. ons in over 110 countries and its head office is in Brussels. For more information, visit www.marsh.net/company/.


Frequently Asked Questions

During the year-long 40th Anniversary of GS1, members of communications teams managing the celebration in their MOs may be asked questions about GS1, its products or the celebration. The FAQ below will help team members answer those questions.

Why are standards important?
Standards are agreements that structure any activity or any industry. They may be rules or guidelines that everyone applies. They may be a way of measuring, or describing, or classifying products or services. One of the easiest ways to understand the usefulness of standards is to think about what happens when there aren't standards. Take shoe sizes, for instance. A size 7 woman's shoe in New York City is a size 38 in Shanghai, a size 4.5 in London, a size 37.5 in Paris, a size 23 in Tokyo and a size 5.5 in Sydney. That's inconvenient and troublesome for an international traveller who may want to shop. And it's very inconvenient and troublesome for companies that make shoes. Because there aren't any global standards for shoe sizes, companies have to mark the same shoes differently for different countries. They have to specify the right size reference on all the purchase orders and invoices and delivery slips for each country. And because it takes more time to pay attention to all those region-by-region specificities, it costs more money. Costs which shoe companies must pass on to consumers in the form of higher prices for shoes. And shoes are only a very simple example! Think about the various electrical adapters you have to carry when you travel internationally. There's one for the United States. One for Europe. Another for the United Kingdom. And others for Asia. Think about how complex non-standardised business processes would be for global companies that manufacture products from a large number of components that come from many different places. Think as well about how the rising costs of energy and the increase of international trade combine to generate costs. It is for these sorts of reasons that so much attention is being focused on finding ways to make the logistics of the international supply chain more efficient. This is why standards play such an important role, for businesses and for consumers alike: Standards are the foundation for clear, understandable exchanges between companies in an increasingly globalised economy. This helps keep costs down for everyone. The best-known GS1 Standard is the GTIN and EAN/UPC bar code. Its familiar beep is heard at least 5 billion times a day all over the planet. Scanners read bar codes on all sorts of goods produced by millions of companies of all sizes, quickly and accurately capturing data at every point in the supply chain. The information is transmitted to thousands of computers of different kinds, using numerous software programs designed by competing companies in order to manage shipments, storage, ordering and sales. The result is that the GS1 bar code enables businesses to maximize profitability by managing the supply chain more efficiently, which is a must in today's globalized economy. Consumers benefit because bar codes help keep store shelves stocked and speed up time at the check out counter.
What is GS1?
GS1 is an international, neutral, non-profit organization based in Brussels, Belgium. It is dedicated to developing and implementing a system of standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply and demand chains globally and across multiple sectors. The GS1 System of Standards is the most widely used system of supply-chain standards in the world.
How many companies use the GS1 System of Standards?
The GS1 System of Standards is used by 2 million companies in more than 20 industries worldwide.
What does the GS1 System of Standards do?
The GS1 System of Standards provides a way to accurately identify, capture and share information about products, assets, services and locations. The standards include numbers for the identification of objects, standards for data carriers (bar codes, RFID tags) and standards for exchanging electronic messages between trading partners.
What standards make up the GS1 System of Standards?
GS1 Standards may be divided into the following groups:
  • Standards which provide the means to Identify real-world entities. GS1 identification standards include ten GS1 Identification Keys that are globally unique and designed to identify unambiguously companies and locations, trade items, logistic units, shipments, consignments, assets, returnable assets, documents, coupons and people involved in a service relation, e.g. a patient, caregiver or consumer.
  • Standards which provide the means to automatically Capture data that is carried directly on physical objects, bridging the world of physical things and the world of electronic information. GS1 data capture standards currently include definitions of bar code and radio-frequency identification (RFID) data carriers which allow GS1 Identification Keys and supplementary data to be affixed directly to a physical object.
  • Standards which provide the means to Share information between trading partners. GS1 standards for information sharing include data standards for master data, business transaction data, and physical event data, as well as communication standards for sharing this data between applications and trading partners.
What benefit does a company get from using the GS1 System of Standards?
The GS1 standards can result in significant improvements in logistics operations, a reduction in paperwork costs, shorter order and delivery lead times, increased accuracy and better management of the entire supply chain, from producer to consumer. Significant cost savings are realised daily by companies using the GS1 standards because they apply one solution to communicate with all their trading partners. GS1 standards also reduce medical errors, contribute to combatting counterfeiting and help ensure food safety.
How did the GS1 System of Standards become the world's most widely used system of supply chain standards and solutions?
GS1 traces its origins to a historic decision in the United States on April 3, 1973 by an Ad Hoc Committee for a Uniform Grocery Product Identification Code appointed by the heads of ten companies (five retailers/wholesalers and five manufacturers), to select the linear bar code as the Universal Product Code (UPC) symbology. In September of 1974, the Uniform Product Code Council (UPCC) was appointed as the administrator coding system. Three years later, the European Article Numbering Association (EAN) was chartered in Brussels, Belgium by leading organisations from 12 European countries and developed a bar code fully compatible with the UPC. In November 1984, The UPCC became the Uniform Code Council, Inc. (UCC). The UCC and EAN grew well beyond the grocery industry and expanded into many market segments. During this time the use of the bar code also greatly expanded and was adopted for use in coupons, logistics, medicine and many other areas. In 2005, EAN changed its name to GS1. On June 7 of that year, the UCC merged with GS1, became part of the large GS1 family and changed its name to GS1 US. The GS1 System of Standards is now used by 2 million companies across 20-plus industries worldwide.
How is the GS1 global system structured?
GS1 is globally governed by the GS1 General Assembly, which includes representatives from all of GS1's more than 110 Member Organisations. The GS1 Management Board provides global strategic direction and is made up of key leaders from User Companies and Member Organizations.
Is the GS1 bar code the best-known of the GS1 Standards? And if so, why?
Among consumers, yes. The bar code was the first standard and therefore has been around the longest. It's also on products consumers buy each and every day. In fact, the familiar beep of the bar code is heard 5 billion times around the world every day.
What is a bar code?
A bar code is a machine-readable representation of information in a visual format on a surface. Bar codes can be read by optical scanners called bar code readers or scanned from an image by special software. Bar codes are widely used to implement Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) systems that improve the speed and accuracy of computer data entry.
Are all bar codes the same?
No. Different types of bar codes fit the needs of different applications. For example, check out systems in retail stores use EAN/UPC bar codes that represent the identification of the item, logistic applications often use GS1-128, a bar code designed to encode the item ID and additional information such as a lot number or a best before date. Bar codes used by GS1 include EAN/UPC, GS1 DataBar, GS1-128, ITF-14, GS1 DataMatrix, GS1 QR Code and Composite Bar Code.
What is the benefit of using the GS1 Bar Code ?
GS1 bar codes benefit all parties in the trading cycle by reducing costs, saving time and increasing accuracy and efficiency through management of the entire supply chain. GS1 endorsed Bar Codes allow the globally recognised GS1 Identification Keys to be used on things such as trade items, locations, logistic units, and assets. The more advanced bar codes, like GS1-128, GS1 DataBar, GS QR Code and GS1 DataMatrix, allow attribute information such as Batch Numbers and Expiration Dates.
Since this is the 40th anniversary of the bar code, will the 40th Anniversary of GS1 celebration focus on the GS1 bar code?
No. GS1 is celebrating its entire range of standards as well as its core values.Those core values include inspirational leadership, passion for delivering best results, innovation, trust, integrity, teamwork and collaboration. These values have helped GS1 become the world's leading neutral not-for-profit organisation that facilitates collaboration amongst trading partners, organisations and technology partners in order to solve business challenges that leverage standards and ensure visibility along the entire supply chain.
What does the future hold for GS1?
Studies show that in the decade ahead consumer markets will shift to the developing world and that the rate of Internet penetration around the world will increase. The result, according to the studies, will be a "digital consumer" whose habits will overturn traditional business models. GS1 plans to respond to the changes in consumer habits and business practices with the same type of visionary leadership that inspired the organization to become the most widely used supply chain standards in the world today. GS1's plan is to increase the value of its System of Standards so that users are ready to meet the new challenges, particularly in the areas of the Internet, mobile devices, health care and well-being, rail and finance. Because studies also forecast shortages in some natural resources that will create instability in raw material availability and cost, adjustments are expected in the areas of the environment, sustainability and food safety.