2D Barcodes for Producers and Packers

Connect your customers and trading partners to more product information, protect your brand, and build greater brand trust with 2D barcodes.

Do you need 2D Barcodes?

Implementing 2D barcodes can mean a substantial investment in in-line printing systems for producers and packers, so it’s important to weigh up whether you’ll get a good return on investment.

2D products are worth considering if:

  • You sell high value products, and you want customers to be able to easily confirm the product is authentic. Unique 2D barcodes can be generated to authenticate the product and show provenance.
  • You are getting ready to export products, and want to protect your brand (and customers) from counterfeits.
2D Barcodes for Producers and Packers

Advantages of 2D Barcodes for Producers and Packers

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 producers and packers:

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

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 the brand story, videos and recipes.

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.

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.

How to transition to 2D barcodes


Are you supplying to Woolworths?

Fresh food categories, including meat and poultry, are already being rolled out in Woolworths stores.

Before you begin your transition, know the GS1 and Woolworths guidelines for 2D barcodes.


Evaluate existing barcodes on-pack and determine use case

For all other producers and packers, 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? 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.

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

  • High quality barcodes - Ensure 2D barcodes are printed at a high enough quality to be scanned throughout the supply chain.
    • Use high-speed digital printing technology
    • Ensure your label stock is non-glossy. Matte stock is preferred for products kept in refrigerated environments.
    • White is optimal for contrast – avoid coloured background where possible
    • Test your substrate – each material behaves differently
  • Barcode size - To improve scannability, it is essential to print your 2D code at the right size. The size of the symbol should be determined by your printing process and equipment.
  • Adopt a barcode verification program - Verification helps you understand the quality of your barcodes, whether trading partners can scan them, and how to improve them. A GS1 Barcode Verification Report is required if you are supplying to Woolworths. Speak to GS1 Barcode Verification Report is required if you are supplying to Woolworths. 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.

What is the cost of moving to 2D barcodes?

The biggest cost for producers and packers is upgrading in-line printing infrastructure. This cost will vary depending on the business’s needs.

The best way to approach it is to think about the cost of NOT moving to 2D barcodes. Is your brand currently at risk by counterfeiters? Will 2D barcodes help instil trust in your brand? Do you need 2D barcodes when exporting your products? If so, it could be worth transitioning to 2D barcodes for your brand.

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.

Which 2D barcode do I need for Woolworths?

Woolworth is using GS1 Datamatrix with all codes in a square pattern (equal X and Y dimensions).

Code magnification (the X dimension) is critical to get right for scannability. The X dimension for Woolworths must be between 0.625-0.9mm, which is the most efficient decoding method for their scanners. On a curved product (such as a lamb shoulder) the scanner will fail at larger magnifications.

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.