2D Barcodes for Brand Owners

Connect your customers and trading partners to more product information, so you can protect your brand and build greater brand trust.

Advantages of 2D Barcodes for Brand Owners

The 2D barcode can hold a large amount of data in a small space, and can be scanned by consumers’ smartphones, which means the following benefits for brand owners:

Improved traceability and recall management: Provides item-level traceability which cannot be achieved with 1D barcodes, which improves product safety and recall management, and ultimately reduces costs and risks for the brand.

Brand protection and anti-counterfeiting: Provides detailed product information and provenance to consumers and trading partners, which prevents the risk of counterfeit products and protects the brand.

Greater brand trust: Provides consumers with reassurance they’re buying the legitimate brand through product authentication.

Improved consumer engagement: 2D codes can encode webpage links, so when the consumer scans the code, you can direct them to further information about the product or brand, such as manuals, video guides or engaging content.

Save space on packaging: More information can be held in a smaller barcode, which frees up valuable packaging space.

Error protection: 2D barcodes are equipped with built-in error protection keeping data intact and readable even when the code is scratched, ripped, or marked through.

2D Barcodes for Brand Owners

How to Transition to 2D Barcodes


Evaluate existing barcodes on-pack and determine use case

Start by evaluating the existing barcodes on-pack to determine whether you need 2D barcodes, and how to use them.

  • Do you have unique requirements that cannot be fulfilled by 1D codes, such as disclosing country of origin or providing provenance details? This can be solved by encoding additional data in a 2D barcode.
  • Are you already using a form of 2D code, such as QR codes, for consumer engagement? Transitioning existing 2D barcodes to GS1 Standards can unlock more benefits.

For example, existing QR codes on packaging can be updated to encode the GTIN in a URL format, so the 2D barcode can be scanned for both price lookup at POS and by a consumer on their smartphone, leading them to a GTIN-specific webpage.

Once you have determined the use case for 2D barcodes, pick a pilot product, line or category to test the barcode before rolling it out across all product lines.


Select 2D barcodes and data

Decide whether to use the GS1 DataMatrix or QR code, depending on your use case.

Work out which encoded data you need to add based on your use case and find the relevant GS1 Application Identifiers.


Update in-line printing equipment

Ensure software, hardware and databases are updated to source and add data that needs to be printed.

In some cases the encoded data is no more than a GTIN, and barcodes can still be printed on pack before packaging.

However, other use cases will need the 2D barcode to be printed with packaging to allow for the variable data (e.g., expiry date, serial number, batch/lot code). This will require in-line printing.

You may already have experience printing variable data in line, with human-readable batch/lot numbers and use-by dates. However, 2D barcodes may still require updates to in-line printing systems.

Talk to Matthews Australasia about which equipment will best fit your printing and labelling needs.

2D Barcode Checklist

  • Ensure high quality 2D barcodes for scanning:
    • Use high-speed digital printing technology
    • Ensure your label stock is non-glossy. Matte stock is preferred for products kept in refrigerated environments.
    • Check barcode contrast.
  • Print 2D barcodes at the right size.
    • Consider the amount of space on-pack, scanning environment, print quality and resolution.
    • The target size for DataMatrix is 0.625 or 0.750 X-dimension, with 22 rows x 22 columns in a square format.
    • The size of the symbol should be determined by your printing process and based on the Dots Per Inch (DPI) of your printer (recommended 300 DPI or higher).
  • Print the GTIN underneath the barcode.
    • This enables manual processing of the GTIN at POS when the barcode is not readable.
  • Test your 2D barcodes.
    • To ensure your barcodes scan first time, every time, submit your label samples for a GS1 Barcode Check. This is mandatory if you are supplying items to Woolworths as you need to check the correct AI’s and data have been encoded in each 2D barcode. Speak to GS1 Australia for help with barcode verification.


Do I need 2D barcodes?

It depends on the product information you want to share on packaging. If there is no need to add additional machine-readable data (such as batch/lot number or use-by date), changing to 2D barcodes is not needed.

All brands need to include, at a minimum, the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) in every barcode on pack if it will be scanned by consumers or at retail POS.

How do I get started?

Start discussions with solution providers early. They can recommend and help guide you towards the right coding, labelling or data capture solution for your needs, which will ensure a smooth transition for all involved.

Does the 2D barcode replace the current 1D barcode on my products?

Not yet. Many retailers are still only using linear scanners, not optical scanners, which means they cannot scan 2D barcodes at this stage.

Until updates have been made across all retailers, you need to include both the 1D and 2D barcodes on your products.

Which should be included as human readable interpretation text?

Human readable interpretation (HRI) text refers to text printed exactly as it is encoded in the barcode. For 2D barcodes encoding a large amount of data, it is not practical to display all the data in HRI form.

It is mandatory to print the GTIN (at a minimum) underneath a GS1 DataMatrix barcode. This enables manual processing of the GTIN at POS when the barcode cannot be scanned.

What are GS1 Application Identifiers?

GS1 Application Identifiers (AI) are used to enable scanners to understand what information it is reading. An AI code is required in front of each piece of data.

Each AI is a numeric code made up of two, three, or four digits.

Common AIs include:

01 Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)

391 Sell price

310 NET weight in kgs

17 Use by/ Expiry date

15 Best before date

10 Batch/Lot number

How much on-pack space is required for a 2D barcode?

It depends on the scanning environment, print quality and resolution. The most important factor is to ensure it can be read by scanners.

Check the GS1 General Specifications (section for the minimum and maximum sizes allowed for 2D barcodes on products scanned at retail point-of-sale.