What is a UPC?
A Universal Product Code, or UPC, is a specific type of barcode used commonly in stores to automatically track items.
UPCs contain 12 numbers. A machine reads these 12 numbers using the bar code. A human can read these numbers by looking at the bottom of the UPC label.
UPCs were developed with grocery automation in mind, but the system worked so well that it quickly spread to all forms of retail and industrial use.
Here's a fun fact: The first ever UPC scan was for a 10-pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit chewing gum in 1974.
When do you need a UPC?
A UPC code is needed when selling to grocery store markets in order to track your product at the check out counter.
You'll need a new UPC for each item you sell, including different package sizes, different packaging types, etc.
If you're selling using a Sales by Container approach, you definitely need a UPC.
If you're selling live produce that is harvested and sold by weight, you may not need a UPC - but it might make it easier for you to establish a grocery store account.
Fresh produce technically only needs to be assigned a produce code by the grocer. However, most grocers have assigned all of their produce codes already, so you'll need to wait for them to drop another produce product before they can pick up yours. Having your own UPC speeds the whole process up.
When in doubt, get a UPC.
If you're only serving farmers' market, CSA, or even most restaurant accounts, you generally do not need a UPC code.
The difference between a UPC and a barcode
A UPC includes a barcode, but not all barcodes are UPCs.
UPCs are unique, specific to a single product, and registered. Other barcodes may or may not.
It will take several different UPCs and/or barcodes in order to comply with all grocery store standards.
You'll need to have barcodes, either 1-d or 2-d, or a similar kind of label on your individual towers in order to track and recall them. These are in addition to, and in conjunction with, your product UPCs.
A 1-d barcode represents information in a linear format. A UPC is one example, but there are several other kinds of 1-d barcodes.
2-d barcodes represent information in two dimensions. A QR code is a common form.
How do you get a UPC code?
UPC codes are issued by GS1, an international supply and demand chain standards organization.
However, don't go and sign yourself up for a GS1 account!
This is where Bright Agrotech makes it easy.
If you're an Upstart Farmer, simply contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org), and we will get you a UPC code for your products free of charge, saving you at least $250.
In order to get a UPC code, you need to provide:
- the dimensions of your packaging
- the weight (on average) of the container, before and after produce is put in it
- the name of the product
You do not need to include pricing information. Price is not included in the UPC.
Within 1 - 2 working days, we'll have a UPC ready to go for you.
Want more detailed information on how UPCs work?
It's not necessary to understand all the technicalities of UPCs, but if you're interested, I found this article to be most helpful.
Need help getting your own UPC?
If you're an Upstart Farmer, we can help you out!
Contact us for more info.