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

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

a 13 digit EAN-13 when including the leading zero or,
a 12 digit UPC-A when dropping the leading zero.

For example:

EAN-13 version (leading zero included): 0712356000015
UPC-A version (leading zero dropped): 712356000015

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 EAN-13 is most widely used by businesses in New Zealand, the UK and Europe, whereas the UPC is mainly used by American & Canadian companies.  If your primary market is New Zealand we would suggest using the EAN 13 version.  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.