Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)

The Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is used to give items, packages and services unique numbers. By encoding the GTIN in a barcode, this number can be read with a scanner. The GTIN can also be associated with further information in an article database.

Numbering items, packages and services with a GTIN

When an item is numbered with a GTIN it gets a unique item number that is never the same as an item number from another supplier. This means that two items can never be confused with each other which makes it easier to order and generate, for example, sales statistics. Therefore each level in a package hierarchy – consumer package, outer package, and pallet – must be identified with its own unique GTIN.

Encoding a GTIN in a barcode

The usual symbologies for encoding a GTIN are EAN‑13, EAN‑8, GS1‑128 and ITF‑14, but a GTIN can also be encoded in GS1 DataBar or GS1 DataMatrix. Which symbology you choose is determined by what you are marking, what information is encoded and where the barcode will be scanned.

GTIN rules

On GS1’s global website you will find the GTIN rules which describe what changes to an item require a new GTIN to be used and which changes are permitted without changing the GTIN.

Go to the GTIN rules

Linking the GTIN with more information about the item

By numbering items with a GTIN a supplier can easily send information about an item to its trading partners. An example of this is the grocery sector’s Trade Item Information. The information is stored in a database and only needs to be sent once and not for every business transaction which is a prerequisite for doing business electronically.

The following figure shows an example of how trade item information can be fetched from a database simply by using the GTIN of the item.


New rules regarding the reuse of GTIN

In July 2017, a new release of the GS1 General Specifications standard was published with a change included about the end of GTIN reuse. This update to the standard states that AFTER December 2018, a GTIN allocated to a trade item SHALL NOT be reallocated to another trade item. This applies to ALL trade items, regardless of sector.

The only exceptions include:

  • If a GTIN has been assigned to an item, which was then never actually produced, the GTIN may be deleted from any catalogue immediately without first being marked as discontinued. In this exceptional case, the GTIN may be re-used 12 months after deletion from the seller's catalogue.

  • Trade items that have been withdrawn from the market and are reintroduced may use the original GTIN if they are reintroduced without any modifications or changes that require a new GTIN as specified by the GTIN Management Standard

Read more on our global web site >