UPC code numbers are used to identify retail products. They are typically barcodes.
In a 12-digit UPC bar code there are three main parts:
- Company prefix
- Item reference number
- Check digit
The company prefix is the first 6 digits of the UPC barcode. For the Coca-Cola Company, for example, the company prefix is 049000. This number will be the first 6 digits of the barcode for all Coca-Cola products. Company prefixes are assigned and licensed to companies by the Uniform Code Council (UCC). The company is a member of the UCC and pays an annual fee to the UCC (currently based on its gross sales) to license this unique number.
The item reference number follows. It has 5 digits. It identifies the specific product and its size, color, flavor, and so on.
The check digit is the 12th number. The check digit is designed to identify errors in the code; we'll discuss the check digit more on the following pages.
Go to checkupc.com and enter these product codes. What products do they identify? What do the differences in the codes represent?
Many common brand names actually belong to the same parent company. Look around your house or classroom for common household items – paper towels, cleaners, toothpaste, detergents, etc. – and enter the UPCs at checkupc.com. Can you find two codes for different brands but from the same company?