What Is a UPC Code?


Quick Answer

A universal product code is a specific kind of barcode used to keep track of store items. The code is used throughout the world, though the format can vary both by country and by the type of product being tracked.

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Full Answer

UPCs were originally created for use in the grocery industry, but the codes are now used with retail inventories as well. The standard code, called UPC-A, consists of a 5-digit manufacturer number and a 5-digit product number. There are also two additional numbers, one at the front and one at the back of the code. The first digit of the code is the UPC identifier, a number used to identify the type of product. For example, 0, 6 and 7 are used for general items, while 3 is reserved for National Drug Code and National Health Related Items and 2 is used for random-weight items. The number 5 is used for coupons and the numbers 1, 8 and 9 are not currently used. The last number is calculated using an algorithm.

Several types of codes are used. The codes can range from 10 to 13 digits. Codes smaller than 10 are also used, typically on items where a larger UPC code won't fit. Those codes are generally five or six digits in length.

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