EWING, N.J. — GS1 US, the non-profit administrator of Universal Product Code (UPC) barcodes, is celebrating its 50th ‘Scanniversary,’ marking the debut of the first barcode scan in retail history.

“On June 26, 1974, a 10-pack of Wrigley's chewing gum adorned with a UPC was scanned at a Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio, igniting an era of retail and supply chain automation,” GS1 US said. “Today, the barcode is used to identify over 1 billion products and is scanned more than 10 billion times daily, serving as a cornerstone of global commerce.”

Beyond UPC barcodes, two-dimensional (2D) barcodes like QR codes have also become important contributions from GS1 US to the grocery industry.

GS1 US shared a 2024 consumer survey that found 77% of consumers believe product information is important when making a purchase and 79% of shoppers are more likely to purchase products with a QR code that offers the information they are looking for.

GS1 US has now launched an initiative called Sunrise 2027, which involves brands transitioning from UPC barcodes to 2D barcodes/QR codes on product packaging and retailers being prepared to accept them at checkout by 2027.

"While we honor the legacy of the iconic UPC barcode over the last half-century, we must support today’s digital world characterized by elevated consumer expectations and increasingly complex supply chains," said Bob Carpenter, president and CEO, GS1 US. "In this dynamic landscape, innovation is flourishing with the growing adoption of new 2D barcodes. These QR codes, powered by GS1, can provide a single gateway to help consumers understand product composition, sustainability efforts and recalls while aiding retailers with inventory control, on-demand discounting, couponing and more. The opportunities to power consumer confidence and connect with brands while also serving the business needs of industry are truly limitless.”

“In addition to the shopper engagement opportunities that 2D barcodes provide, these data-rich QR codes will also better support our inventory management operations so that we can keep our shelves stocked with the products our customers want most,” said Dave DeLaus, senior vice president and chief information officer, Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. “As an early adopter, we’re prioritizing this industry transition and are pressure-testing our capabilities to ensure readiness.”

“The shift to 2D barcodes will be key to educating consumers in store as they consider products that best meet the needs of their families,” said Dave Bornmann, Publix senior vice president, product business development. “Industry coming together to make this transition while following barcode placement standards will be the gateway to information our shoppers increasingly want at the point of decision.”

“I started out in the supermarket business as a part-time courtesy clerk the year the barcode was introduced and saw first-hand how it improved store efficiency and enhanced the customer experience,” said Mike Stigers, president of Wakefern Food Corp., the largest retailer-owned cooperative with supermarket banners that include ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace, the Fresh Grocer, Gourmet Garage and Fairway Market. “It’s so exciting to mark 50 years of progress with the ‘Scanniversary’ and, as a GS1 US board member, help guide the industry’s transition to 2D barcodes. The potential to provide so much important product information will continue to help retailers, manufacturers and consumers.”

GS1 said it will continue to serve as a neutral standards body supporting industry collaboration through the transition.

"The 50th anniversary of the UPC barcode scan serves as a testament to the lasting relevance of GS1 Standards in an ever-evolving marketplace," Carpenter said. "As we embark on the next chapter of barcode innovation, GS1 US remains committed to driving progress and facilitating meaningful advancements that will shape the next 50 years and beyond in retail and supply chain."