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What is an EAN Code?

Everything You Need to Know About EAN Codes

If you are in the retail world, it’s critical to know the importance of an EAN and UPC code. The EAN and UPC barcodes are instantly recognizable and printed on virtually every consumer product in the world. They are the longest established and most widely-used of all GS1 barcodes. The majority of people are extremely familiar with the UPC code but what exactly is an EAN code?

Read on to learn more about EAN codes, what they are, when they are used, and why we use them?

What is an EAN Code?

A European Article Number (EAN) is a 13-digit number, accompanied by a barcode, used within Europe on retail products. It was created with the aim of providing all European products with individual article numbers. Each product has its own article number, which is unique and cannot

EAN Code

be found again worldwide and with this article number, an EAN can be generated and applied to products as a barcode.

History of the EAN Code

Like a UPC code, an EAN code can help product sellers track their products. Think of it like a fingerprint, where no two are the same. The UPC was the original format for product barcodes in the 1970s. After the UPC code had been in use for several years, Europe recognized the effectiveness of the UPC code but realized a 13th digit was needed to identify the various different countries, which is how the EAN code was developed.

In 2005, a global initiative began, allowing North American retailers to scan both UPC and EAN codes. Because of this, nearly all North American retailers now accept EAN codes. This is why the EAN Code is now formally called the “International Article Number”.

Why do we use EAN Codes?

In general, EAN codes make it easier for suppliers, sellers, manufacturers, and consumers to:

  • Search and find specific products

  • Minimize the level of human error when it comes to processing products

  • Create a standardized system for companies selling outside of the U.S. and Canada

  • Increase the value of a company’s products


It’s important that merchandise sellers know all about product coding and when to use each specific code. To learn more about the specific codes, when to use them, and what they are, check out our past blog on all things product coding.

When should we use EAN Codes?

Are there any cases where you don’t need an EAN code? Yes. If you’re not planning to sell your product internationally, you don’t need an EAN code. A UPC code is sufficient in these cases.

Many companies such as Amazon and eBay, do not require you to include the EAN code on your label if you are shipping directly to the end user. They simply require the inclusion of the EAN code, within the product details, when listing the item. Since the product will not be physically “scanned” at a traditional “Brick & Mortar” store, the EAN code will not need to be on the actual product when delivered. If you are choosing to sell at a traditional retailer, you’ll need to make sure your labels clearly showcase your barcodes.


GCB Solutions can support your coding and labeling operations with advanced printers. We’ll install the equipment, train your team, and provide service and repairs so you get the most out of your marking system. To learn more about our product coding equipment and services, visit our website or call us at (904) 263-2804.


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