February 8, 2013

The Most Boring Piece Of Your Packaging Is The Most Important

UPC CodePackaging that jumps off the shelf takes many shapes and forms depending on the brand you’ve developed, color palette that fits that brand, and the stores you’re aiming to get into. There’s a whole host of things you need to take into consideration (much of which we’ll talk about more this year) but if you’re planning to sell your products wholesale into the retail channel then the most important part of your packaging is actually the most boring.

The UPC or barcode is a critical piece of your packaging that retail buyers are going to want to see is in place prior to their bringing your products onto their shelves.  Note – independent specialty buyers may not be as concerned about this piece but if you’re aiming for small chains/supermarkets then this is going to be something you need to keep in mind.  Similarly, if you’re targeting independent specialty buyers now but hope to grow into the supermarket realm before you would need to purchase additional packaging then doing this now will save you time and money in that you won’t have to redesign and reproduce your packaging.

If you do a Google/Bing/etc search you’ll see that there are a number of places you can buy a UPC code from.  Don’t do it! Those low-cost codes don’t really belong to you.  What I mean is that see the first set of numbers in a barcode:

UPC Code

If you purchase from those low-cost barcode providers you won’t get a unique set of those numbers in the first part of the barcode.  As a company that is planning to grow, you actually do want to own your own unique first set of numbers.  This means that going forward the second set of numbers will change dependent on the product you’re packaging – for example all the Peach Salsa you package will have one second set of numbers but your Ghost Pepper Salsa will have a different set.  In both cases though the initial numbers (in this example the 0 70989) will remain the same in both accounts.  This is key as you expand into supermarkets and start to work with distributors and if you don’t have this in place because you don’t actually own your own numbers then you’ll run into issues getting onto store shelves or getting distributors to carry your product.

So How Do I Get A UPC Code?

GS1 Company is the only legitimate source of UPC barcodes that enable you to own the prefix (or first set of numbers) and can provide you with additional UPC codes as needed as you expand your product line.  The initial application and set up cost does vary a bit depending on your business needs and it can be high ($1000 or so) but if you take into the account the cost of having to reproduce packaging because you don’t get the right UPC code initially you’ll see that this up-front cost pales in comparison.

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6 comments on “The Most Boring Piece Of Your Packaging Is The Most Important

  • Nancy Fortner on said:

    Interesting but daunting info to a small business. The first threshold to get signed up for my own unique number allows up to 1000 barcodes for $1575, plus $500 a year. Wonder if it would make sense to create a cooperative to share the expense of the unique number without having to purchase from some umbrella company. Thoughts?

  • GirlRilla Advertising on said:

    Shark Tank on Feb 7 showed a couple marketing a unique, Sippy Cup. One of the points they bought up about “Babies R Us” is they did not want invest in the “product” because of the packaging. It was too odd-shaped and would take up more real estate than other “products.”

    • smallfoodbiz on said:

      Ooh…I haven’t seen that episode yet because I’ve been traveling this week for work – thank goodness for DVRs! The point you (and they) brought up is a really a great one when considering packaging. Stores have limited real estate space and while they want/need good packaging it can’t take up unneccesary space.

  • Debra Bonnefin on said:

    Don’t know if you’ll see this as this is an old post but looking on GS1’s website it says you don’t own your company prefix you just lease it per year. In your post you say you own it though. Did they change?

    • Jennifer on said:

      It used to be you own it so they might have changed it (like Photoshop has done – you no longer ‘own’ the software but basically lease it from their cloud on an annual basis). I’ll look into it and see what I can find out.