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UPC VS Barcode: What's the Difference in 2024?

2 minutes

In this UPC vs Barcode article, we will explore the unique characteristics of UPCs and Barcodes and the main differences between them. Read on to learn more.

upc vs barcode

What is a UPC (Universal Product Code)?

A UPC (Universal Product Code) is a standard numerical code used for product identification and pricing. It is commonly found on product packaging for quick scanning at retail checkouts.

Unique Characteristics of UPCs:

Fixed Format: UPCs consist of 12 digits, providing a consistent format for product identification.

North American Focus: These codes are primarily used in North America but are recognized internationally.

Retail-Centric: UPCs are tailored for retail environments, streamlining checkout and inventory management.

Product Identification: They serve as a universal identifier for various retail products.

barcode vs upc

What is a Barcode?

A barcode visually represents data using lines, dots, or shapes. It's scanned to obtain product information and is commonly found on product packaging and retail labels.

Unique Characteristics of Barcodes:

Format Variety: Barcodes come in diverse formats, including 1D (linear) and 2D (matrix) codes, offering flexibility in data representation.

Global Applicability: Barcodes are standardized and used worldwide, making them universally recognizable.

Easy Scanning: Designed for effortless scanning by barcode scanners or mobile devices, ensuring quick identification.

Limited Information: Typically, barcodes contain essential product identification numbers.

differences between upc vs barcode

Barcode vs UPC: Are they the Same?

Although barcodes and UPCs are similar they have a few key differences that we will explore below:

Inherent Nature

UPC: is a standardized numerical code for retail product identification and pricing.

Barcode: is a graphical representation of data, scannable for information retrieval.

Visibility and Presentation

UPC: Hidden within product packaging or labels.

Barcode: Prominently displayed on products for checkout scanning.


UPC: Follows a standardized format with limited customization.

Barcode: Adheres to universal standards, less customizable than UPCs.

Information Depth

UPC: Contains essential product identification.

Barcode: Typically includes basic product identification numbers.

Primary Use

UPC: Integral for inventory tracking and pricing in retail.

Barcode: Designed for fast product identification at checkout.

Universal vs. Business-Specific

UPC: Can differ significantly between retailers.

Barcode: Standardized and consistent across industries and businesses.

We hope our UPC vs Barcode article has given you a better understanding of the main differences between Barcodes and UPCs.

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