Is my barcode label fit for purpose?


Is my barcode label fit for purpose?

Is my barcode label fit for purpose?

Is it inevitable we will pick the wrong queue at a supermarket?

It can certainly feel like it sometimes.

You know the situation: You have bought all the essentials for the week such as alcohol, coffee, chocolate and midnight snacks and now you just want to get through the cashier area as fast as possible so you can get home and make short work of that delicious-looking ready meal you spotted.

Only your queue has ground to a halt.


The young cashier is desperately trying to get the barcode label on one of the items to go “ping” but as much as she passes it backward and forwards under the scanner, nothing happens and so she spends the next 5 minutes punching in the number of the barcode in manually.

It is so easy to silently blame that poor cashier who looks no older than 12, or your wife for choosing queue no.6 in the first place, or even the customer in front for… well… just being there!

But the fact is that the blame usually lies somewhere else entirely.

Where products will not scan, the problem may well be down to how the barcode label has been affixed to the product in question. And, for the exact same reason why that barcode label is causing you frustration at the tills, it could also be putting the manufacturer’s contract at risk with the retailer.

So, let’s get this sorted. As a product manufacturer you will quickly find out that if the packaging doesn’t meet accepted standards to enable the selling process, the retailer may decide not to sell the items because they are causing issues in the logistics.

So how can you be extra sure that the way you have attached the barcode to your product is not going to cause any selling problems for your distributor?

Let’s take a look at the main areas…

The 7 main barcode label problem areas

1. Small Products

If you have a small product (i.e, a packet of chewing gum), then using a normal sized barcode label may not be the answer. To deal with these situations, you can aquire extra-small barcodes. Whereas the normal barcode is called an EAN-13, its smaller equivalent is an EAN-8. They have two distinct numbering systems. The EAN-13 has 13 numbers while the EAN has 8.

2. Dimensions of the barcode

The size of the label should still be within certain parameters in order for it to be read by the scanner successfully.   Your EAN-13 should measure no less than 25.93mm height and 37.29mm width. Do not reduce the symbol size under 80% or increase it over 200% as this is likely to cause scanning issues.

3. Welcome to the quiet zone…

The quiet zone which sounds both futuristic and relaxing refers to the free area to the left and right of the symbol. It allows the scanner to differentiate between the barcode and the graphics around it. If there is too little space in the margin of your barcode then scanning could be unpredictable.  Generally, the minimum amount of space should be ten times the width of the narrowest element in the barcode (bar or space).

4. Contrast should be good

For the scanner to pick up the data correctly there needs to be a good contrast between the background of the label and the bars and numbers. In order to create the best quality print in your design use a vector format for your images. These are useful because they do not lose quality when rescaled.

5. Adding colour to the mix

The traditional colours of a barcode are black and white. But it doesn’t have to be so aesthetically boring – you may want to reflect the brand or the product packaging in the barcode image itself. You should avoid using yellow, red and orange as these colours are invisible to the scanner (though they can be the background) but most dark colours can be used for the bars so long as there is a clear contrast between bars and background.

6. The best position for your barcode label

Finding a flat surface may not always be viable with your specific products but will be useful for processing in the long run. Also try to find somewhere where creasing of the product packaging will not interfere with the final scan. Remember to refrain from placing the barcode image on a corner or around a curved edge as this will make scanning difficult. If your product is totally curved, then it will probably be safer to lay it lengthwise along the curve.

7. When is a label not a label?

The material that you print on is important as it can affect the quality of the barcode. If you are printing your barcode on very glossy or shiny paper, you might get some ink bleed or it might reduce the contrast in reflectance between the spaces and bars of the barcode. It is a bad idea to print black bars directly onto the surface of your product without a reflective background as it is not guaranteed to scan. For example, don’t print bars directly onto a transparent plastic bottle or a silver can without a printed background as these materials would not reflect the light back towards the scanner.

Tanto Labels offers printing hardware, software, labels and barcode numbers. We also offer assistance with printer installation and after-sales support. In short, we can guide you through the whole process – making it simple and cost-effective. If you need barcode labels that work every time we can help you.

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