Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)

Identifying trading units with a GTIN

The Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is used to identify trade items uniquely and unambiguously (e.g. products sold online or in-store).  

It is the responsibility of the brand owner of the product to allocate GTINs using their GS1 Company Prefix. Companies can choose to do so themselves based on the numbering structures described below, or they can use My Product Manager to generate the correct GTINs for their products automatically. 

Start creating your GTINs

Every product that must be distinguishable from another product needs its own GTIN. The GTIN remains unchanged if the characteristics of that product remain unchanged. A GTIN that has already been allocated cannot be reused for another product. 
Are you making changes to an existing product and you don't know whether this will require you to allocate a different GTIN to the product? Make sure you consult the global rules around the allocation of GTINs. You can find these rules on the website of GS1 Global: the GTIN management standard

Structure of an identification key

EAN 13 example EN

An identification key always starts with a company prefix. There are company prefixes of different lengths: from 7 digits to 11 digits long. The prefix is supplemented with an x number of digits to arrive at a complete identification key (for example, GTIN). The shorter the company prefix, the more free positions to identify products with. In other words, the shorter the company prefix, the more identification numbers you can create. We call this the 'numbering capacity'. The last digit is a check digit to verify that the code is correct.

Different GTIN structures 

There are different GTIN numbering structures. The choice of which to use depends on the type of product and the user's application. 

  • For retail units: GTIN-13 or GTIN-8 
  • For standard groups of trading units that are not sold to the final consumer: GTIN-14 

GTIN-13: Retail units

Products that can be purchased by the final consumer and can normally be scanned at the checkout are identified with a GTIN-13. 

Please note: The GTIN-13 applies to regular-sized retail units. 

GTIN-8: Small retail units

In the case of very small products that need to be scanned at the checkout within the FMCG or Do-It-Yourself, Garden and Pet sector, a GTIN-8 can be used. This identification number must then be encoded in an EAN-8 barcode

Please note: a GTIN-8 is an exception and does not contain the GS1 company prefix of the brand owner. A GTIN-8 must be requested from GS1 Belgium & Luxembourg, and can only be obtained if it concerns a very small product. 

The first six digits of a GTIN-8 are assigned by GS1 Belgium & Luxembourg. The last item number is variable (from 0 to 9) and is assigned by the brand owner. Companies affiliated with GS1 Belgium & Luxembourg can request GTIN-8 numbers upon presentation of the packaging and/or label so that GS1 can check the dimensions. 

GTIN-14: Standard groupings of trading units not intended for retail sale 

Trading units that are not sold to a final consumer, also known as secondary or logistical packaging layers can be identified by a specific GTIN-13 (e.g. in the case of a heterogeneous standard grouping) or with a GTIN-14, created based on the GTIN-13 of the trading unit it contains. See the structure above for GTIN-13. 

Below is the structure of a GTIN-14. GS1 recommends that a GTIN-14 be allocated where possible to save the numbering capacity of the GS1 company prefix. 

GS1 recommends that a GTIN-14 be allocated where possible to save the numbering capacity of the GS1 company prefix. 

Please note that in the healthcare sector, the use of a GTIN-14 is permitted for trading units that are scanned, for example, at the cash register in the pharmacy.

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