Businesses may use Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) to uniquely identify all the trade items they manufacture or sell. It is regarded as an important component in building of the GS1 system.

What Is GTIN?

THE GTIN standard is a GS1 Identification Key that helps identify different trade items. This internationally unique system works in assigning GTINs to business owners, giving them easy means to identify items as they make their way through the supply chain.

The use of GTINs to identify products at varied packaging levels is common. For example, a case that contains multiple units of a single item can have a unique GTIN. Data elements such as expiry dates and lot numbers may be used to identify items that come with similar usage or production traits. Once a business assigns a GTIN to any item, it serves as a unique identity that provides information about the product and it is recognizable by all its trading partners.

The GTIN standard worked in integrating different global standards into a singular numbering space. The other standards include the International Article Number (EAN), the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), a few Universal Product Codes (UPCs), the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), and the International Standard Music Number (ISMN).

GTINs come in different lengths. The product type and the market in which it is to be sold essentially determine the length of an item’s GTIN.

  • GTIN-8: Used for small items with limited space
  • GTIN-12: Use is common in the United States
  • GTIN-13: Use is common in Europe and various other parts of the world
  • GTIN-14: Use limited to identify multipacks or outer packages

The different GTIN lengths follow similar structures. They include a company’s prefix, an item reference number, and a check digit. GTIN-14 includes an added component in the form of an indicator digit. Their encoding relies on different systems.

  • GTIN-8s are encoded in EAN-8 barcodes.
  • Encoding GTIN-12s is possible in GS1-128, UPC-A, and ITF-14 barcodes.
  • Encoding GTIN-13s is possible in EAN-13, GS1-128, and ITF-14 barcodes.
  • Encoding GTIN-14s is possible in GS1-128 and ITF-14 barcodes

Organization in Charge of GTIN

GS1, a Belgium-based not-for-profit global organization, is responsible for developing and maintaining the GTIN standard. It has local member organizations in more than 110 countries.

History of GTIN

GS1 was founded in 1977, as the European Article Numbering (EAN) Association. The organization now has over 90 member countries. The corresponding table lists existing GTIN data structures and their former names or legacy terminologies.

Name          Legacy Terminology/Former Name

GTIN-8        EAN/UCC-8

GTIN-12       EAN/UCC-12, UCC-12

GTIN-13       EAN, EAN/UCC-13, JAN (subset)

GTIN-14       EAN/UCC-14, SCC-14, DUN-14,[3] UPC Case Code, UPC Shipping Container Code
(used only for wholesale shipments)

Example Codes

Take a look at these GTINs:

  • 0017817686174
  • 0017817725460
  • 0017817694490

All these examples are for products manufactured by Bose Corporation, USA.  The company’s GS1 company prefix is 0017817. The GTINs listed as examples represent the following:

  • 0017817686174 – SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker II - Carbon
  • 0017817725460 – Quietcomfort 35 Wireless Headphones - Black
  • 0017817694490 – SoundTouch 20 Series III Wireless Music System - Black