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UPC Codes

December 9, 2013

When I was 20 and dropping out of college, the whole “Looking everywhere for Drake’s” thing got me noticing UPC codes. Then, I started a search for God, and then got into the Bible and prophecy, and couldn’t find any more info on UPC anyway, so that “next major ‘interest'” was set aside.

Each regular bar code consists of two banks of five digit numbers (or one six digit number that’s actually a compression of the two five digit figures). The first group being the manufacturer code, and the second being the product code. The form is thus MMMMM—PPPPP. Usually, in all the manufacturer’s products, that first set of numbers will be the same, representing the company, and often even its owners, and each individual product will be the series represented by the second set.

I had noticed how the big companies had grabbed up the mfr numbers divisible by 1000. Somewhat smaller but still notable companies would have numbers divisible by 100.
Like Hostess, then part of the national Continental Baking Company, was 45000, while Drakes, which I had found out the hard way was only regional, was 41261. (Then owner Borden was a big national company that had the prime 14000, 26000 and 53000 for other products. But several of the brands it owned used adjacent numbers in the 412’s. Wise Potato Chips was 41262, and still is, Borden Confections, (now Haviland Candy), was 41263. Cracker Jack was 41257 (but more recently got bought out by FritoLay, who wanted to own it from the beginning, but Borden got it, but it now bears FritoLay’s 28400). 41258 was Wyler’s (Bouillon cubes only; Wyler’s drinks got sold off to someone else earlier on, and now the Bouillon line owned by Heinz) and 41259, a line of jellies branded “Bama” (Now apart of Welch’s). 41260 got taken up by a Denver area supermarket chain, King Sooper, as I would find out in few years later in the Air Force).

While the regular 10 digit code is known as a Type A barcode, the higher the power of 10 the manufacturer number is divisible by, the more products can receive a “Type E” code, which compresses the number by what’s called “zero deprecation”. The zeroes can be dropped, and the remaining digits of the manufacturer and the product codes can be combined into a six digit figure. (in two cases, splitting the mfr number, even). Here’s how it works:

M: manufacturer code nonzero integers
P: product code nonzero integers

|||||—||||| = ||||||
MM000—00PPP = MMPPP0 (PPP=001-999)
MM100—00PPP = MMPPP1 (PPP=001-999)
MM200—00PPP = MMPPP2 (PPP=001-999)
MMM00—000PP = MMMPP3 (PP=01-99)
MMMM0—0000P = MMMMP4 (P=1-9)
MMMMM—0000P = MMMMMP (P=5, 6, 7, 8 or 9 only. 0-4 would conflict with the above)*

*(I found an exception years ago. Sun Dew was 75834, with raspberry as 75834—00001, orange as 758345, and fruit punch as 758347, but cherry somehow got 758343, You would think this would be reserved for whatever manufacturer that holds 75800 to use for their product # 00034, so I don’t know how they managed this).

I had always wanted to see Drake’s with a Type E, like Hostess and the other big companies had (Dolly=41300, Tastykake=25600, ABC/Mickey=12200, etc. It came to represent to me a sign of being “big” in the industry), and they eventually did get a few when they came out with their line of mini cakes. Mini Coffee Cakes (individual pack) was 412616, and there was Mini Ring Dings as well, but I forget what that was (probably 412615), or whether there were other mini versions like those.
Now, it’s all flipped, as Hostess, under it’s new ownership, has gone with a rather odd 8—88109.

Up to now, all the codes I had been discussing have a detached 0 in the far left edge. This is the “system number“. That number counts also, but for most established US products, the number is 0. But the US also has other “system” series (like in case the 0 series from 00000-99999 runs out), such as 8.
Hostess is now stuck with one of these. (They do not get Type E’s, even if the zeroes are in place).

I’m so surprised they would drop the prime 0—45000, (especially when the mfr codes were never changed all the other times the brand changed hands), while Drake’s has adopted McKee’s 0—24300. (Still won’t get type E’s, because the product numbers are in the 1000’s, and 24300 would only be able to use it for 01-99, but Little Debbie isn’t even using those low numbers; don’t know what they’re used for).

System code 3 is for drugs.
4 is a store’s own inhouse system. For years, I was surprised to see the mfr code of 00000 was our own Waldbaum’s supermarket chain, but it was really 4—00000. And some other stores, and various products’ coupons as well, also used it.

In the US type A’s, there’s also a detached number in the far right, which is a parity bit or “check sum“, to make sure the bars were read right. So the US codes are really S—MMMMM—PPPPP—C
(I’m wondering if the parity bit is what allowed cherry Sun Dew to snag 0—758343—?. Wasn’t paying attention to the parity bit back then, and so didn’t take it down. Perhaps 0—75800—00034—? would end up with a different checksum, and so both type E numbers could co-exist without conflict?)

Then, there’s foreign-based products, which also have another digit, the country code or “flag” added on the left, with system number and check sum attached to the adjacent numbers so that their full codes are actually two banks of six digit numbers: F—SMMMMM—PPPPPC. These are called “EAN“s. (“European Article Numbering”). Book/magazine UPC’s, even in the US, follow this model. (9—78MMMM. 9 ends up as the country flag for a fictional place called “Bookland”).

For the US, the country code is also 0, and this is not even printed at all, so the EAN-13 and UPC are actually identical. (i.e. 0—0MMMMM—PPPPPC, 0—8MMMMM—PPPPPC, etc.)

Each bar represents a different number, but it gets complicated, and sometimes the character shapes are even reversed, depending on different factors. So I won’t try to get into all that right now.

Here are the major brand 1000’s numbers I had initially collected from the 80’s (some new ones I added I found from UPC Database or “UPCmachine” sites; can see that the upper 50000’s and 60000’s are for Canadian versions of US products):

11000 Liggett Group (tobacco products such as L&M)
12000 PEPSI
13000 HEINZ
14000 Borden Dairy
15000 Gerber
16000 General Mills
17000 Armour-Dial
18000 Pillsbury
19000 Lifesavers
20000 Green Giant
21000 KRAFT
22000 Wrigley’s
23000 International Bible Society
24000 Del-Monte
25000 Minute Maid (Coca Cola)
26000 Borden home/professional (Elmer’s glue, etc.)
27000 Beatrice/Hunt-Wesson
28000 NESTLÉ
29000 Royal(Nabisco)
30000 Quaker
31000 Banquet (frozen)
32000 McKesson water products
33000 Revlon Group
34000 HERSHEY
35000 Colgate-Palmolive
36000 Kleenex (Kimberly Clark)
37000 Proctor & Gamble
38000 Kelloggs
39000 Broadcast/Libby’s
40000 M&M/MARS
41000 LIPTON
42000 Ludens, James River (Dixie, Northern, Vanity Fair, Brawny)
43000 GENERAL FOODS
44000 NABISCO
45000 CBC (abandoned; Hostess now 8-88109, Wonder now 72250{Flowers})
46000 PET bakery/dairy foods (defunct)
47000 Peter Paul-Cadbury
48000 Chicken of the Sea
49000 COCA COLA
50000 Carnation
51000 Campbell’s & Pepperidge Farms frozen
52000 Gator Ade, Stokely Van Camp
53000 Borden food products (other than dairy).
54000 SCOTT
55000 Nestlé Canada
56000 Hershey “Shell” Canada (?) also see 56600
57000 Heinz Canada
58000 Colgate-Palmolive Canada
59000 Robin hood (Canada, baking products)
60000 Aylmer (Del Monte Canada)
61000 Eastern Pulp Paper Co.
62000 Schneider’s Foods (Canada)
65000 also Nestlé Canada (?)
67000 Coca Cola Canada (USPS “Forever” stamp booklet 0—679400—2)
68000 Hershey Canada
69000 Pepsi Canada
70000 HALLMARK
73000 Parker Bros.
74000 SHARP
77000 ATARI (defunct)
78000 7-UP
80000 Star Kist
82000 Smirnoff
85000 Bartlett&Jaymes/Gallo
87000 Seagram’s Gin/Quest
90000 Carlton Cards
99000 Stuart Weitzman

99999 I’m seeing as mostly Lyner Photography of St. Louis.

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From → Interests

2 Comments
  1. Ever ride the NYC Subway (IRT) syestem? Notice in the R142/ R142A model cars that there are what appears to be UPC codes on the bulkhead panels (ends of the car, over the window) What’s that all about?
    jrc

    • The Car Inspector scans it, and it tells him how the heat or cool is in the spot. (In 160’s, they’re on the ceiling).

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