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PMA advises suppliers to stop using generic UPCs

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The Produce Marketing Association BB #:153708 recommends fresh produce shippers phase out generic UPCs and switch to the GS1 DataBar, which offers company specific coding.

In a February 19 webinar, Ed Treacy, vice president, supply chain and sustainability for PMA, said many retailers no longer accept generic universal produce codes on produce items, including Kroger, while wholesale clubs such as Costco and Sam’s Club never allowed them.

“It’s not mandatory,” he said. “PMA can’t enforce it, but more and more retailers don’t allow them in their supply chain.”

Because generic UPCs only identity the product and not the brand owner, Treacy said, retailers can’t effectively use category management, and the codes do not assist during traceback investigations.

Liz Sertl, director, retail grocery industry engagement for GS1 US, said a company prefix is easy to obtain. The DataBar code goes on a PLU sticker and complements the PLU code, while the longer barcode goes on a produce package or box.

“Once you have your own company prefix, you can track other information, such as product, location, and transportation information,” she said.

PMA and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association BB #:153602 stopped making generic UPCs at the end of 2019.

Jane Proctor, vice president, policy and issue management for CPMA, said there are many benefits of the DataBar, including:
-Better category management
-Increased checkout speed
-Improved inventory accuracy
-Better shrink control
-Assisting in traceability

Treacy said PMA offers a DataBar online tool which allows shippers to input their information before produce is shipped to a buyer, and even give information to buyers with which they haven’t previously had a relationship. Additionally, it’s free for buyers to access.

PMA gives more info about this tool here.


Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services