A 12 digit UPC-A barcode

The History of the UPC Bar Code
and the Uniform Code Council.

Bar Code Main Page

The UPC UCC Application Process

The History of the Uniform Code Council

The History of the UPC

Retail Package Design



History of the UPC Bar Code and The Uniform Code Council, Inc.

HISTORY: The Uniform Code Council, Inc.

The history of the Uniform Code Council, Inc. (UCC), how the Uniform Code Council came to be, and how UPC barcodes were invented.

Originally developed by request of grocers involved in the National Association of Food Chains (originally called the Food and Grocery Chain Stores of America), the story of how the UPC barcode went from supermarket to worldwide acceptance in multiple aspects of trade and commerce is quite interesting and intriguing.

Around 1966, the National Association of Food Chains (NAFC) asked equipment manufacturers for a solution to speed up the checkout process. RCA installed one of the first scanning systems at a Kroger store in Cincinnati in 1967. It 'read' product codes that looked like a bulls-eye (rather than the bars of the bar codes we know today). These early barcodes were labels placed on items by Kroger employees (rather than being printed on the product package or container as they are today).

There were issues with the RCA/Kroger code, yet the grocery industry saw the potential and sought a standard coding scheme that would be open to all equipment manufacturers to use, and readily adopted by all food producers and dealers. The objective was to speed checkout and the initial idea to be able to pass the savings on to consumers.

We design consumer packaging that sells, see our work now.

More about UPC bar codes

In 1969, the National Association of Food Chains (NAFC) tasked Logicon, Inc. with the creation of a proposal for an industry-wide bar code system which resulted in Parts 1 and 2 of the Universal Grocery Products Identification Code (UGPIC) in the summer of 1970.

Based on the recommendations of Logicon's report, the U.S. Supermarket Ad Hoc Committee on a Uniform Grocery Product Code was formed.

The original members of the Ad Hoc Committee and their technical experts were:

H.J. Heinz Company

Burt Gookin, President
John Hayes, General Manager of Marketing Services

General Foods

Art Larkin, CEO
Bob Stringer, Vice President of Distribution

he Kroger Company
Bob Aders, Vice Chairman
Jack Strubbe, Vice President

General Mills
J.P. MacFarland, CEO
Tom Nelson, Vice President-Controller

Associated Food Stores of Salt Lake City
Don Lloyd, President

Fairmont Foods
Gordon Ellis, President
Bill Logan, Vice President of Administration

Bristol Myers
Gavin MacBain
Chairman of the Board
Fred Butler, Vice President of Operations

A & P
W.J. Kane, President
Earl Madsen, President of Madsen Enterprises

Super Valu Stores
James Wyman, President

The members of the U.P.C. Symbol Selection Committee were:

First National Stores
Alan Haberman, Executive Vice President

H.J. Heinz Company
John Hayes, General Manager of Marketing Services

Greenbelt Consumer Services
Eric Waldbaum, President

Del Monte
Bill Galt, Assistant Controller

Proctor & Gamble
Barry Franz, EDP Manager

Various representatives

General Foods
Various representatives

By 1973, this Ad Hoc Committee of the UGPCC (the Uniform Grocery Code Council) recommended the adoption of the UPC symbol set still in use in the US today.

Apparently thinking ahead and beyond the scope of supermarkets, the Ad Hoc Committee recommended to adopt a code, but not solely for the purpose of optimizing code scan check out systems. (Today bar codes are used in applications that go far beyond checkout).

Developed by George Laurer (whose work expanded on the barcode concepts of
Norman Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver way back in 1949 - see story above), it was submitted by IBM.

Therefore, George Laurer is considered the 'father of the modern bar code' even though Woodland was working for IBM at the time.

Shortly afterwards, National Cash Register Company (now NCR) installed one of the first UPC bar code scanners at Marsh's supermarket in Troy, Ohio.

On June 26, 1974, the first product with a bar code, a 10-pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit chewing gum, was scanned at a check-out counter at a Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio. A random event, this pack of gum was picked from the cart by a shopper (Clyde Dawson) who simply chose the gum first. Sharon Buchanan (now retired) was the cashier who made the first UPC scan. The pack of gum is on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. The Troy store was chosen due to its proximity to Dayton, Ohio-based NCR Corp., which designed the checkout counter. The actual scanner used was from PSC Inc., and at the time cost $4,000 (the entire check-out counter cost $10,000). These days, PSC scanners cost about 1% of that.

In September of 1974 the UGPCC (Uniform Grocery Product Code Council) - a corporation previously formed by the grocery industries' leading trade associations - became the UPCC (Uniform Product Code Council).

On September 1, 1981, the United States Department of Defense adopted the use of Code 39 for marking all products sold to the United States military with a system called LOGMARS. This adoption of the bar code for military applications significantly pushed the bar code into numerous industrial applications to follow.

In May 1983, the UPCC agrees to administer the Uniform Communications Standards (UCS). UCS is an electronic data interchange (EDI) standard that permits computer to computer ordering and invoicing for the grocery and public warehousing industries.

In November 1984, to reflect the administration of the new UCS standards, the UPCC (Uniform Product Code Council) becomes the Uniform Code Council, Inc. or UCC.

The UCC has remained a privately held, non-profit, tax-exempt corporation and has continued to dramatically grow and expand into many market segments (aside from groceries) and remains the only US administrator of the UPC bar code (as well as other bar codes in use for coupons, logistics, medicines, and more).

The U.P.C. bar code, aside from speeding checkout, allowed retailers and manufacturers to manage and replenish inventory more efficiently, as well as automate many processes and operations, like special promotions, coupons, and product returns.

The expansion of the U.P.C. has allowed the Uniform Code Council to develop an entire family of bar codes that allow companies to uniquely identify products as well as cartons, cases, pallets, assets, and coupons.

The bar code is now used in 23 major industries, including grocery, retail, healthcare, government, foodservice, industrial/commercial, transportation, and high-technology.

Reduced Space Symbology, a smaller “bar code cousin” to the U.P.C., is now being used to mark small healthcare items, such as vials, blister packs, ampules, and syringes.

In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated that pharmaceutical companies bar code their medicines down to the unit of dose so that they can be scanned in hospitals and endorsed Reduced Space Symbology as a means to reduce medication errors.

The UCC is also in the process of working with industry to standardize and commercialize the Electronic Product Code. This “wireless bar code” will use low-power radio frequency tags and readers to automatically capture information like bar coding, and more.

Under its auspices, the UCC operates three subsidiaries, UCCnet, RosettaNet, and EPCglobal US and it co-manages the global EAN•UCC System with EAN International. The UCC also manages the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSCŪ) for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The newly formed EPCglobal, Inc. is a joint venture of the Uniform Code Council and EAN International. UCC-based solutions, including business processes, XML standards, EDI transaction sets, and the bar code identification standards of the EAN•UCC System are currently used by more than one million member companies worldwide.

In 2005, the UCC changed its name to GS1-US. See the GS1-US Site.

According to a Press Release dated June 7, 2005... The Uniform Code Council today announced ...that it will change its name to GS1 US, effective immediately. Founded more than 30 years ago by leading retailers in the grocery industry, GS1 US represents more than 260,000 companies in 25 different industries in the United States. 

GS1 US is a Member Organization of GS1, formerly known as EAN International, a global standards body that leads the design and implementation of standards for the supply chain. GS1 US pioneered the development of the Universal Product Code, (U.P.C.) the central foundation for the global standards system managed by GS1. As a part of the GS1 family, GS1 US implements standards and provides services for its subscribers that enable companies of any size, industry, or location to communicate with trading partners across business or geographic divisions worldwide. [excerpted].

More about the history of the Uniform Code Council will follow shortly.

If interested, please bookmark this page. If you have interesting information about the Uniform Code Council, please contact me.

More history of the UCC is on the UCC web Site.

If you need retail packaging design, click here.

For all other types of advertising, promotion, business consulting and more, please click here to our home page.

Note: This article is of an editorial nature. All trademarks and copyrights are owned by their respective owners. If you see errors or omissions, please contact me so that I may make necessary corrections. I feel the history of the bar code (as well as the future) is important and created this page since I found little about this elsewhere. I am doing my best to cross-check and verify information presented. Thanks - Rob Cummings.

See everything we do. Click here.

Contact us
or return Home or see Pricing

Bibliography and sources:

design     copywriting     strategic marketing    advertising    promotion    packaging   exhibits   identity&branding   business plans   sales strategy
process streamlining     training     motivation    video & tv    animation   internet   search engine optimization   business consulting   all about us