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The UPC Process

So you have your wrapper design ready to go and are anxious to add the finishing touch; the Universal Product Code (UPC).

Adding the UPC to your packaging is one of the final steps to making your food bar wrapper “official.” However, it should be noted that a UPC is actually only required by retailers, not the FDA.  Now before you start surfing the web looking for UPC suppliers, let’s take a look at some of things you will need to be aware of before you buy.

The Size

No doubt you have visited stores to check out competitor’s packages and get an idea for your wrappers. When looking at the back label of the food bars, you should notice that most of the information is pretty standard. The ingredients and the nutritional information will generally take up a lot of the space provided. Typically, though, the UPC will be found hiding in one of the lower corners.

The standard size of a UPC is 1.469 inches wide and 1.02 inches tall, however they can be shrunken down a little depending on what the wrapper design calls for. Generally you do not want to shrink the UPC below 80% of the standard size. If you make it much smaller than that, scanners may not be able to read it properly.

If you are unsure whether or not the UPC will work in a design, or you just want to test it out, you can have your graphic designer print it out and take it to a grocery store. They should be able to test the label and see if their scanners can read it. If for some reason the scanners do not pick up the UPC, you will need to rework the design.

How to Buy and Use

Businesses are able to obtain their 12 digit UPCs from registered sellers. When you purchase a UPC, all you are doing is buying a number that is guaranteed to be unique. Contrary to misleading information provided by some online companies, obtaining a UPC is not complicated. While the number is associated with the product, it is not specific to your business. Unfortunately, there are many companies that will try to overcharge by claiming they will register your UPC with retail stores or that they can offer premium add-ons to the UPC.  In reality, you do not need anything more than the code itself. However, you are able to obtain the UPC through some manufacturers. We currently charge roughly $100.00 to obtain UPCs for our customers.

Each flavor you are selling will require two UPCs; one for the individual bars, and one for the POS (point of sale) box your pack of 12 bars will come in. Once you receive the UPC, it is up to you to take it to retail locations where your product will be sold and have it entered into their computer system. Although the UPC is unique to your product, it still needs to be assigned to the item in each database. After a retailer scans it into their system, they will possess the information needed to sell your food bars, and you can breathe a big sigh of relief.

The Image

You will receive the barcode art when you purchase a UPC. This is the file that will be used in the label design for your wrapper. It is a simple image with black ink on white text just like you would see on most of your competitor’s packaging. Now, regardless of any fun ideas you may get from other companies, we strongly advise you to keep the UPC in black and white. As tempting as it may be to go outside of the box and change the UPC to match your brand’s colors, you run the risk of compromising the scanner’s ability to read it. Should this happen, you will incur the additional cost of redoing the design and reprinting wrappers. So if the urge to get creative with this image should strike you, just say no.

If you would like to learn more about obtaining a UPC or to learn more about contract manufacturing options for your protein bar, please visit our website at, email Jonathan Miller at or give us a call at 888-411-3536.

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