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GS1 Story

It all begun with a barcode

Beep! On 26 June 1974, a packet of chewing gum became the first barcoded product to be scanned in store. Today, barcodes play a crucial supply chain role, ensuring products hit retail shelves at the right times.

We manage the barcode standard used by retailers, manufacturers and suppliers. If you want to put a barcode on an item that can be scanned anywhere in the world, you need to talk to us.

But although our story started with the barcode, our standards have evolved to reflect and influence the world in which we live and work.

They boost efficiency in many sectors, from retail and health to transport and logistics. Always working for our members, we’re opening doors and driving down the costs of doing business. 

How we got here

Over the last 40 years, we’ve opened offices in over 100 countries and amassed more than a million members using supply chain standards that make business easier. Learn about key dates in our history.

  • 1973:   The barcode standard is agreed

    Industry leaders in the US select a single standard for product identification. Still used today, it’s known as the GS1 barcode.

  • 1974:   The first barcode is scanned

    On 26 April, a packet of chewing gum becomes the first barcoded product to be scanned in a supermarket.

  • 1977:   The GS1 system is launched

    The European Article Numbering (EAN) Association — later called GS1 — opens an office in Brussels. Its founding members launch an identification system to improve supply chain efficiency.

  • 1983:   Barcodes are used on wholesale multi-packs

    As barcodes have proved their reliability and usefulness in real-world environments, they are extended and used on product outer cases.

  • 1989:   GS1 moves beyond barcodes

    With wide area networks making an impact on supply chains, we create our first international standard for electronic data interchange.

  • 1990:   Responsibilities grow

    The US and international arms of GS1 come together formally, creating a single organisation with a presence in 45 countries.

  • 1995:   First healthcare standards created

    We expand our work into the healthcare sector, working closely with healthcare bodies and providers.

  • 1999:   The GS1 DataBar arrives

    After significant research and design, the GS1 DataBar is created. This holds more information than a barcode, yet is significantly smaller.

  • 2000:   90th local office opens

    In just ten years, we double the number of countries in which we have a local presence.

  • 2002:   Global standards forum launched

    Our Global Standards Management Process is launched. This global forum gives GS1 members one place to discuss standards.

  • 2004:   The first standard for RFID is created

    With Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Chips becoming more common, we create a standard for their implementation and use.

  • 2007:   GS1 enters the business-to-consumer world

    As ecommerce grows, we begin to create open standards that give consumers direct access to key product information.

  • 2013:   A 40-year celebration

    With a presence in over 100 countries and more than a million members, we celebrate 40 years of the global language of business.