Marking outer packages

An outer package is a package containing a number of consumer packages. Outer packages are often the item level that can be ordered from a supplier or wholesaler. When the outer package has an item number, buyer and seller can be sure that the correct item has been ordered.

Choose the barcode depending on the type of item number

To give an outer package a unique number, it can be numbered with a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN). The GTIN for an outer package can be GTIN‑13, GTIN‑14 or, in exceptional cases, GTIN‑12. To create a GTIN you need a GS1 Company Prefix.

Outer package numbered with GTIN‑13 or GTIN‑12

If the outer package in numbered with GTIN‑13 or GTIN‑12, the item number is encoded in one of the symbologies EAN‑13, GS1‑128 or ITF‑14.

Outer package numbered with GTIN‑14

If the outer package in numbered with GTIN‑14, the item number is encoded in one of the symbologies GS1‑128 or ITF‑14.

Note that an outer package may not have the same item number as a consumer package.

Choose the barcode depending on how it will be used

  • EAN‑13 and ITF‑14 can be used to mark outer packages when the barcode does not need to carry any information other than the GTIN.
  • ITF‑14 is less sensitive to poor print quality than, for example, EAN‑13. ITF‑14 is therefore suitable for use when printing on, for example, corrugated board.
  • If the outer package might be sold unopened directly to the consumer then it should be marked with EAN‑13 so that the barcode can be read at the checkout.
  • GS1‑128 can be used to mark outer packages when information additional to the GTIN, such as batch number, expiry date and net weight need to be encoded.

Plain text information on outer packages

If the supplier uses an article number other than a GTIN when communicating with customers, then the supplier’s article number should be printed on the outer package in plain text.

The outer package should also be marked in plain text with the item name, number of consumer packages in an outer package and size. Example: “Chocolate bars 24 x 100 g”.

Transport packages and totes

Transport packages, or totes, do not need to be barcoded since their only purpose is to keep a number of outer packages together. The package cannot be ordered or subsequently sold as a unit. On the other hand, a transport package should be given its own GTIN to enable it to be identified and stored in various databases such as those for item information.

A transport package can be a number of items that for practical purposes are kept together in one package using a wrapper, tape or slip-sheet. An item in transport packaging, for example a vacuum cleaner in a box, is another example of a transport package.