A Closer Look at EAN-13

I‘ve had several questions recently about retail barcode standards in Europe and I thought it might help to take a closer look at EAN-13.  EAN (European Article Number) has always been the symbology of choice throughout Europe and recently has spread to the U.S. and Canada.  Prior to 2005, any products sold internationally required both a UPC and an EAN barcode, but now EAN-13 is seen worldwide.  EAN-13 is much like the UPC-A code widely used throughout the U.S., with a few small differences.  EAN-13 uses a numbering system (00-99) to include country information, whereas the numbering system for a UPC-A ranges from 0-9.   And of course, EAN-13 has 13 digits compared to the standard 12 digit UPC.  There is also a shorter version of EAN-13 for small packages, known as EAN-8.   A standard EAN-13 includes the following items:

  • Country Code or System Code– the first 2 digits of the barcode that represent the country that the manufacturer is registered in, not necessarily the country of origin.
  • Manufacturer Code– This is the unique five digit code assigned to a manufacturer by the EAN numbering authority. This is like the unique prefix manufacturers are assigned when they register with GS1 for a UPC.
  • Product Code– The product code is the 5 digits that follow the manufacturer code. These are assigned by the manufacturer to represent that specific product.
  • Check Digit or Checksum– The check digit is the last digit of the barcode, used to verify that the barcode scans correctly. EAN-13 uses a modulo 10 calculation for the checksum, but if you don’t feel like doing the math, this simple EAN-13 Check Digit Calculator takes out all the hard work.

For more information about EAN-13 or barcode label software that supports it, please contact me at ehodges@barcode.com.