Difference between EAN and UPC barcodes – which to use on your product

Our standard barcode packages include both UPC-A (Universal Product Code) and EAN-13 (International Article Number) variants.   Our numbers originate with the Uniform Code Council (now GS1 US) with the EAN-13 version prefixed with either a “07” or “06”.  This means our barcodes can be read as either;

a 12 digit UPC-A when dropping the leading zero or,

a 13 digit EAN-13 when including the leading zero.

For example:

UPC-A version (leading zero dropped): 712356000015

EAN-13 version (leading zero included): 0712356000015

The EAN-13 (13 digits) is simply a superset of UPC-A (12 digits), meaning the barcode symbology and vertical bars are identical between the two standards.  They both contain the same numerical and visual information and are recognised by scanners globally.   The only real point of difference is that historically the UPC is mainly used by American & Canadian companies while the EAN-13 is most widely used outside of these countries.  If your primary market is the United States we would suggest using the UPC-A version.  Since 2005 both formats are read interchangeably.  So regardless of which format is used they are valid barcodes that can be used globally and are not limited by any region.

Scanning: In some cases a retailer’s scanner may be configured to drop or include the leading zero.  If you are using the EAN-13 version and a retailer’s scanner is programmed to drop the leading zero they can simply record the 12 digit code into their system. Conversely if you are using the UPC-A version and a retailer’s scanner is configured to include a leading zero they can input the code as an EAN-13. Either way your product will be scanned at point of sale and identified.

Ready to purchase EAN-13 and UPC-A barcodes?  Buy Barcodes here.