GTIN and EAN in a New Era

In the vast and intricate world of commerce, tracking and identifying products is pivotal. This is where EAN (European Article Number) and GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) codes come into play. Initially introduced in the early 1970s as a universal method for marking retail goods, these barcodes have significantly streamlined the way businesses manage inventory and process sales.

Among the notable contributors to the European history of the EAN system is Albert Heijn, a leading grocery retailer in the Netherlands. In the early stages of barcode adoption, Albert Heijn played a crucial role in demonstrating the practical benefits of the EAN system. By implementing these barcodes in their stores, they showcased how such a system could enhance operational efficiencies, streamline the checkout process, and improve inventory management, thereby influencing widespread adoption across Europe.

An EAN or GTIN is a unique numerical sequence that identifies a specific product. Typically, this code includes the product’s country of origin, manufacturer, and specific item details. The primary function of these codes is to facilitate efficient checkouts and manage stock levels in stores globally, effectively solving the problem of product identification and tracking in a diverse market landscape.

Who Manages These Codes?

The issuance and management of EAN/GTIN codes are overseen by GS1, a non-profit international organization. GS1 ensures that each code is unique and adheres to global standards, thereby preventing duplication and ensuring consistency in identification across the globe.

While GS1 is the globally recognized authority for issuing and managing EAN/GTIN codes, the landscape faces complications due to the emergence of third-party sellers like and These entities sell unregulated codes at lower prices, which can be attractive to small businesses looking to cut costs. However, these unofficial codes often lack universal recognition, potentially leading to significant complications in global supply chains and discrepancies in marketplace listings. This situation highlights the critical need for businesses to adhere to codes issued by officially accredited organizations like GS1, ensuring consistency, reliability, and global compliance in product tracking systems.

A Democratized Way Forward

While EAN/GTIN codes have revolutionized retail and inventory management, emerging technologies like blockchain present new opportunities for enhancing how products are tracked and verified across supply chains. Blockchain technology, with its decentralized and transparent nature, could potentially democratize the process of product identification.

Blockchain could offer a decentralized platform where product information is not just accessible but also verifiable by all parties in real time, without the need for a centralized authority like GS1. This means that small and medium enterprises could issue their own unique identifiers for products, thus lowering barriers to entry and fostering a more inclusive market environment.

Moreover, blockchain’s inherent characteristics—immutability and transparency—could significantly reduce fraud and counterfeit products. Each product’s journey from manufacturer to end consumer could be reliably tracked, creating a secure and trustworthy chain of custody that is accessible to all stakeholders.


EAN and GTIN codes have undoubtedly set a high standard in inventory and supply chain management. However, as we advance, integrating technologies like blockchain could further revolutionize this domain by making it more democratic and transparent. Such technological integration not only promises to enhance operational efficiencies but also supports a more equitable business ecosystem, empowering smaller players alongside the giants. As we look forward, the potential for blockchain to redefine product tracking and verification in the digital age holds great promise, promising a landscape where technology handholds progress towards a more inclusive and efficient future.

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