Supply Chain Management

Why You Should Stop Using Generic UPCs

On November 13, 2019, CPMA and IFPA (formerly PMA) issued a joint press release announcing that generic UPCs would no longer be issued beginning January 1, 2020. It is strongly recommended that all growers/packers transition away from using generic UPC-12s (UPC-12s beginning with 033383) due to the growing number of retailers who will not accept them and begin to transition to the use of company-specific UPCs. It is suggested that, once growers/packers have exhausted their packaging inventory, they begin to transition to the use of company-specific UPCs.

Reasons to Convert:

The decision to stop issuing new generic UPCs was at the request of the fresh produce industry. An increasing number of retailers who, in an effort to increase the produce safety and traceability of fresh produce, will not accept generic UPCs.

  1. The Romaine Task Force has also recommended that companies transition away from the use of generic UPCs and move to company-specific UPCs to assist with traceback investigations. The use of company-specific UPCs may get your product exonerated from a traceback investigation quicker. FDA now use POS receipt data from retailers to assist them in traceback investigations.
  2. While the transition is not mandatory, continued use of the generic UPC may limit suppliers’ sales opportunities with retailers who require company-specific UPCs—especially as more and more retailers begin to adopt this practice.
  3. Generic UPCs do not support category management. Retailers cannot distinguish the sales of your product in their stores from your competitors’ products. Retailers determine sell through or sold versus bought at the item level to determine which suppliers’ product they will purchase. If you continue to use generic UPCs, you will limit your ability to get Preferred Supplier status. 

How to Convert to Company-Specific UPCs?

Step 1. Obtain a GS1 Company Prefix if your company does not already have one. To check, enter your company name in GEPIR. If you determine that you need to obtain a GS1 Company Prefix, please visit the GS1 US website.

Step 2. Create a new UPC-12 (GTIN-12) for each of your packaged products that use generic UPCs. It is recommended to not use any logic in creating the number. Use the next available UPC-12 using your GS1 Company Prefix. For more information on building your company-specific GTINs, see Global Trade Item Number.

Step 3. Notify your packaging company and packaging designer of your transition plans to ensure no new packaging will use generic UPCs.

Step 4. Contact each of your customers to notify them of the new UPC number and the generic UPC number it will be replacing. Use this as an opportunity to make contact with potential customers that you do not do business with currently as your product could end up in their stores via the wholesale channel. 

While IFPA recommends the use of company-specific UPCs, you can download the list of generic UPCs for produce or floral below.

Download Generic UPCs for Produce
Download Generic UPCs for Floral

PLU Code Experts

Ed Tracey

Ed Treacy

Vice President of Supply Chain

Wendy Logan

Wendy Logan


Supply Chain and Sustainability


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