08 Feb

The EAN code is a type of barcode of European origin that emerged in 1979 and is currently used by more than a hundred countries and around a million companies.

This type of code is similar to the American UPC, with the main difference that the European uses 13 digits while the UPC uses 12. This code, although initially used only in Europe, today is used around the world, except for the United States and Canada.

In addition, one last feature that differentiates it from the UPC code is that the EAN code can identify the country that produces the product it labels.

Meaning of the EAN code

Currently, the EAN code refers to the International Article Number. Originally, these letters meant European Article Number, but since the use of the code spread beyond Europe, the name of the code was changed without altering the initials that identified it.

In addition to referring to this code as EAN, it can also be called EAN 13, referring to the fact that it consists of 13 digits, or GTIN (also with the GTIN 13 variant), which stands for Global Trade Identifier.

What is it for?

The EAN code, like any other barcode, is a very useful tool for efficiently managing the databases and the general information of the purchase-sale operations that are carried out.

In short, the code is used to be able to store information and that it can be read at high speed, preferably with a laser reader instead of manually entering the numerical code.

How do EAN codes work?

EAN codes are made up of bars of different widths, but the same heights, which visually represent the digits that make it up. This series of numbers is usually written below the barcode, so that it can be entered manually in the event of an error.

Laser scanners scan and read the barcode to convert the barcodes into that 13-digit code.

 In this way, by reading the code we can have many facilities when it comes to inventory or, in the case of stores that sell the products, be able to find the name and price of the product and thus speed up the purchase process.

What information does the EAN code include?

The EAN code contains a large amount of information that, when used for retail sale in different establishments, can be used to relate it to other external information.

That is, the EAN code as such identifies the country of origin, the manufacturer and also contains the product's identifying number or distinctive. It also includes a verification number to ensure that it is indeed the correct product.

The country code is composed of two or three digits (A); the company code by four or five (B), and the product code completes the first twelve digits (C). Finally, the check digit is in last place (D).

On the other hand, when buying the product in question, when they go through the checkout, the barcode automatically appears on the counter. This is due to an indirect connection made by the store itself, in such a way that it associates the product's identifier with its name and price to facilitate the creation of the invoice and speed up the payment process.

EAN Types

Although the EAN code is typically made up of thirteen digits, there are actually two different types of this code. One of them effectively refers to those 13 digits with the name of EAN 13, while the other is EAN 8.


This type is the most popular and recognizable, thanks to the fact that any barcode reader can read it. In addition, as it has a verification code, it ensures that if you have to enter it manually there is no error.

However, this code is limited in the number of characters so although it is very efficient for use in supermarkets, it cannot identify more complex items.


This version of the code works exactly the same, but simplified. It consists of eight digits that identify the country and the product, as well as the verification number. The simple precision that results from this combination is very useful for small or individually wrapped products such as candy or tobacco packets.

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