So you have your wrapper design ready to go and are anxious to add the finishing touch; the Universal Product Code (UPC).

Adding the UPC to your packaging is one of the final steps to making your food bar wrapper “official.” However, it should be noted that a UPC is actually only required by retailers, not the FDA. Now before you start surfing the web looking for UPC suppliers, let’s take a look at some things you will need to consider.

The Size

No doubt you have visited stores to check out competitor’s packages and get an idea for your wrappers. When looking at the back label of the food bars, you should notice that most of the information is pretty standard. They have the ingredients and the nutritional information. Since space is at a premium on a wrapper, the rest of the space is generally taken up by the UPC.

The standard size of a UPC is 1.469 inches wide and 1.02 inches tall, however it can be shrunken down a little as the wrapper design needs. Generally you do not want to shrink the UPC past 80% of the standard size. If you make it much smaller than that, scanners may not be able to read it.

If you are unsure if the UPC will work in a design, you can have a graphic designer print it out and take it to a grocery store. They should be able to test the label and see if their scanners can read it. If for some reason the scanners can’t read the UPC, you will want to rework the design.

The Numbers

So, what makes up the UPC? There are two parts to each UPC label. There are the black and white bars that are scanned, and the numbers underneath. In the beginning, certain blocks of numbers were assigned to large companies (i.e. all UPC codes that stated with 123 might have been belonged to company X). Now, the numbers are basically randomly assigned so that any company can have any number and different products from the same company can have no sequential numbers.

You will receive the barcode art when you purchase a UPC. This is the file that will be used in the label design for your wrapper. It is a simple image with black ink on white text just like you would see on most of your competitor’s packaging. You will want to make sure you keep it in black and white since that is what the scanners look for when they read the label. If you play around with the colors, the UPC may not be readable and it could end up costing you more time and money to redo.

How to buy and use

When you purchase a UPC, all you are doing is buying a number that is guaranteed to be unique. Each code is a twelve digit number. Contrary to misleading information posted by some online companies, obtaining a UPC is not complicated. You will receive the number once you purchase it from a registered seller. While the number is associated with the product, it is not specific to your company. There are many companies that will try to overcharge by claiming they will register your UPC with retail stores or that they can offer premium add-ons to the UPC. Truthfully, you do not need anything more than the code itself. Element Bars currently charges $100.00 to obtain a UPC code from our block of codes.

When you purchase the UPC it is up to you to take it to retail locations where your product will be sold and have it entered into their computer system. Even though the UPC is unique to your product, it still needs to be assigned to the item in each database. If you were to scan the UPC in a database it is not entered in, nothing would happen.

When purchasing a UPC for Element Bars, you will need to keep in mind how many you will actually need. Each flavor you are selling will require two UPCs. One for the individual bars and one for the POS (point of sale) box.

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