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Decoding 2DBarcodes 

The demand for better traceability in food, beverage and FMCG supply chains is driving an uptake in next generation 2DBarcodes. 

Traditional linear barcodes have been around since 1972 when the first-ever linear barcode appeared on a pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum.

What started as a means for retailers and supermarkets to look-up pricing has become an accepted global standard. Fast forward to today, linear barcodes are scanned more than 6 billion times each day however there is an increasing trend of brands moving towards additional barcode formats such as 2DBarcodes.

COVID-19 has generated increased demand for better traceability in food, beverage & FMCG supply chains to better protect consumer safety, guard against food fraud, provide proof of provenance, and offer extended brand interaction in a digital format.

2DBarcodes have been around since the mid-1990s but until recently didn’t receive much uptake beyond a standard QR code but increasing connectivity in a digital world is driving uptake in next generation barcodes.

Additionally, consumers and businesses are expecting manufacturers include more granular data to be included in barcodes: product authenticity, provenance, best before/use-by dates, specific ingredient information, even down to farm or factory location that can be linked to a specific point-of-sale.

Benefits of 2DBarcodes

2DBarcodes offer unparalleled security and serialisation capabilities with more data in less space. Their variety of benefits are quickly being realised as more industries become sensitised to traceability and anti-counterfeiting measures:

  • Improved food safety, waste reduction and shelf-life extension. Allows for micro-manageability by expiration date for monitoring product freshness and waste reduction.
  •  Improved point-of-sale traceability and product safety. Sharing richer product data such as product identification and place of purchase across the retail value chain can help create opportunities for improved consumer protection.
  • More efficient in-store product and targeted recall management - stopping withdrawn products at/before POS. The affected batch is easily identified, and the brand avoids a costly general product recall.
  • Improved supply chain transparency and inventory management in real time.
  • Opportunities to activate consumer knowledge and enhance consumer engagement by offering consumers access to additional product information, sustainability and recycling statistics or useful tips on additional product uses (i.e. recipes), in return brands can access more information about their consumers (i.e. customer geolocation).
  • Builds consumer trust with additional brand security and anti-counterfeit measures – legitimacy of product, proof of provenance. Serialization of products (where every item is identified with a GTIN and unique serial number) can be used to verify that a product is genuine.

Source: GS1 Australia

Source: Domino

In addition, 2DBarcodes are omnidirectional and equipped with built-in error protection keeping data intact and readable even when the code is scratched, ripped, or marked through – something that would render a traditional 1D barcode unreadable.

Transitioning to 2DBarcodes on labels and product packaging

As packaging size decreases the amount of information barcodes needs to hold is increasing. Many brands have responded to the demand for more data by adding additional barcodes or QR codes to their product packaging, resulting in designers seeking to identify ways to reduce field size while maintaining code readability.

However, having multiple barcodes is not only confusing for customers, it also causes issues at POS and takes up valuable footprint on shrinking packaging real estate.

2DBarcodes serve the entire supply chain ecosystem from a single code. For example, a single 2DBarcode on packaging can contain consumer-facing applications alongside multiple data elements for use at POS, internal inventory control and supply chain management.

Complete industry adoption of 2DBarcodes across Australian retail is still some time away with the sunrise date for full 2DBarcode implementation set for 2027, which means 1D and 2D barcodes will need to coexist for some time. 

“The way in which we interact with products has changed – and technology has to keep up. Sunrise 2027 will allow industries to move toward a single, standardized barcode that will create efficiencies for businesses and trading partners as well as increase consumer engagement and satisfaction." Gena Morgan, Vice President of Standards, GS1 US

Source: GS1 

Source: GS1 Australia

Technology enabling 2DBarcode implementation

Protecting brands against fraud is a challenge across every industry. Transitioning to 2DBarcodes allows the capture and sharing of many more data elements that can truly modernise business processes. 

Unique 2DBarcodes are printed either off-line during the label printing process, or in-line using high-precision, high-quality laser, thermal or inkjet printing technologies. However, as with any product code, a barcode can only be effective if it is correctly printed. Having a suitable system in place to print 2D codes and verify the printed code is crucial to ensure that brands can make the most of this standard.

Laser coders can be easily installed on existing production lines and offer high performance flexibility driven with an on-location touch screen, they require no consumables.

Responsive serialisation and high quality 2DBarcode inline printing allows for direct printing onto the label or marking onto product packaging using barcode generator software such as BarTender, providing compliance with global GS1 standards.

At present, some hurdles stand in the way of transitioning to complete adoption of 2DBarcodes – namely an enormous global retail infrastructure network that has been designed to work with linear barcodes. To achieve full industry migration, there is a need for realignment of POS systems, software with capability to ingest, at a minimum, a 14-digit GTIN and data attributes, and hardware infrastructure with the optical capabilities to read 2D barcodes encoded with an AI (01) + 14-digit GTIN.

When linear barcodes were first introduced over fifty years ago, few could have anticipated just how important they would become. Looking fifty years forward, the same could be said for 2DBarcodes as a gateway to digital brand experiences and their role in improving traceability and food safety, improved supply chain transparency, and enhancing consumer-brand engagement.

While the impetus for change is clear, and more industries begin to feel the need for 2DBarcodes, there’s still a long way to go in the migration toward “next generation” barcodes.

Industry-driven needs to encode more data on-pack to meet the growing information demands of consumers, automated data capture, enablement of supply chain efficiencies, and building brand trust will become increasingly important to global business operations.

The challenge for brands and industry is to harness their collective experience and unlock barriers to implementation through collaboration. As a GS1 Strategic Alliance Partner, our experts are equipped with the knowledge and training to provide you with globally compliant 2DBarcoding solutions.


Key resources for compliant barcoding

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