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PLU vs. SKU: What's the Difference in 2024?

1.5 minutes

In this PLU vs. SKU article, we explore the unique characteristics of Price Look-Up (PLU) and Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) codes and compare their differences. Read on to learn more.

difference between plu and sku

What is a PLU? 

A PLU (Price Look-Up) is a numeric code used primarily in grocery stores and supermarkets. These codes were initially designed to expedite the checkout process by allowing cashiers to quickly identify and price produce items. 

Unique Characteristics of a PLU

Here are five distinctive characteristics of a PLU:

Numeric Nature: PLUs consist of numeric codes, typically four to six digits long, making them easy to input and recognize.

Produce-Centric: PLUs are primarily associated with fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables, as they help differentiate items that may look similar.

Pricing Information: PLUs often encode pricing information, aiding in accurate cost calculation and checkout efficiency.

Standardization: PLUs are standardized, meaning that the same code for a specific item is consistent across different stores.

Limited Application: While crucial for supermarkets, PLUs have limited application outside the grocery industry.

stock keeping unit vs price lookup code

What is an SKU?

An SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) is a unique alphanumeric code assigned to every product in a retailer's inventory, regardless of the industry. SKUs are essential for tracking inventory levels, managing stock, and facilitating the sales process. Unlike PLUs, which are more product-specific, SKUs encompass a broader range of items sold by a retailer.

Unique Characteristics of an SKU

Here are five distinctive characteristics of an SKU:

Alphanumeric Format: SKUs use a combination of letters and numbers, allowing for a more extensive range of unique identifiers.

Universal Application: SKUs are versatile and applicable across various industries, from retail and e-commerce to manufacturing and distribution.

Customization: Retailers can create their SKU systems, tailoring them to their specific needs and products.

Inventory Control: SKUs are instrumental in managing stock levels, helping businesses make informed decisions about restocking and sales.

Granular Detail: SKUs often provide detailed product information, including size, color, and other variations.

sku vs plu

SKU vs. PLU: What's the Difference?

Let's compare SKUs and PLUs to highlight their differences:


SKU: Utilizes a combination of letters and numbers in an alphanumeric format.

PLU: Typically composed of numeric characters.

Data Capacity:

SKU: Offers a higher data capacity, accommodating more extensive product information.

PLU: Limited data capacity, primarily used for pricing and identification.

Data Type:

SKU: Used for comprehensive product identification, including size, color, and variations.

PLU: Primarily used for pricing and basic identification of produce items.


SKU: Unique to each specific product, ensuring no duplication within a retailer's inventory.

PLU: Standardized across stores, resulting in some overlap in codes for different items.


SKU: Widely applicable across various industries, including retail, manufacturing, and distribution.

PLU: Mainly employed in the grocery industry, particularly for fresh produce items.

Origin and History:

SKU: Evolved as a comprehensive inventory management tool, gaining prominence in retail and beyond.

PLU: Originated as a tool for expedited checkout and accurate pricing in grocery stores.

We hope that our PLU vs. SKU comparison has provided you with a better understanding of the key differences between the two. Whether you're managing a grocery store or a diverse retail catalog, the right choice between SKU vs. PLU codes can make all the difference.

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