QR Codes

Engage consumers, battle counterfeiters and authenticate your products. Our QR code factsheet has everything you need to know about using GS1 QR Codes.

What is a QR Code?

QR, or “Quick Response”, codes are two-dimensional computer-generated images made up of black modules in a square pattern on a white background. Encoded within this can be any kind of text-based data, including URLs.

  • Store up to 4,296 alphanumeric characters
  • Error Correction to restore data if the code is dirty or damaged
  • Can be read by camera-based scanners and smartphone apps
  • Ideal for marketing and promotions on packaging


  • Large capacity in a small size
  • Cost-effective promotional tool
  • Provides the ability to connect online and offline information
  • Give consumers extra information without taking up valuable packaging space
  • Incredibly fast and easy to scan

Breaking Down the GS1 QR Code Specifications

  • Made up of black modules (dots or pixels) arranged in a square pattern on a white background
  • Text-based data encoded to be read by image-based scanners or smartphone apps
  • The more data to be encoded, the more modules need to be added. The smallest possible version of a QR Code comprises 21×21 modules. QR Codes grow in steps of four modules in each direction up to a maximum of 177×177 modules (version 40)
  • Must include a Quiet Zone
  • Includes areas of recognition to help with detection and decoding

Error Correction

QR Codes have four error correction (EC) levels:

  • Level L (low) 7% of code words can be restored
  • Level M (medium) 15%
  • Level Q (quartile) 25%
  • Level H (high) 30%

A higher level can be used for a warehouse where the code is more likely to get dirty. The higher the EC level, the higher the ability to correct errors, but the larger the code will be.

Common scenarios

  • Marketing and promotions
  • Product authentication
Marketing and promotions

QR Codes are used by brands to communicate with consumers in competitions and promotions. Consumers simply use an app on their smartphone to scan the code, which directs them to a website, image, contact information, social media, etc. Because they are fast and easy to use, QR Codes are an effective way to build engagement and brand loyalty.

QR Code
Product authentication

Food and beverage companies in Australia are using QR Codes in serialisation to battle counterfeiters and build consumer trust. A unique number is applied onto each unit via the QR Code. Consumers can scan the code using their smartphone to quickly check the authenticity and origin of products, as well as any other useful information, such as storage instructions and recipes.

QR Code

QR Codes Essential Checklist

  • Ensure your QR Code is printed clearly and crisply to ensure it scans. Avoid lamination, small sizes and poor colour contrasts
  • GS1 QR Code must include the GTIN and Extended Packaging URL
  • Use QR Codes in a way that clearly tells consumers what to do, e.g. “scan this to enter the competition”
  • Don’t print a QR Code so small that scanners can’t read it
  • Link to a website that is mobile friendly
  • Always test the final printed code with a QR Code (camera-based) reader to ensure it directs users to the right place
  • Use a system such as Matthews iDSnet to generate and manage QR Codes

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use the QR code in healthcare environments?

GS1 DataMatrix is specified for use in regulated healthcare environments.

Does the QR Code replace the retail GTIN barcode?

No, the QR Code provides extended packaging information associated with the product GTIN. It cannot be scanned at retail POS.

What information can be included in the GS1 QR Code?

The QR Code can include all GS1 Application Identifiers. It MUST encode the AI (01) for GTIN and AI (8200) for Extended Packaging URL before any other AI.

How do I know whether to use a QR code or DataMatrix?

Both 2D codes provide benefits depending on the application.

Choose DataMatrix if:

  1. Where product identification and variable information are the principle requirements, encapsulating large amounts of data.
  2. Using a Datamatrix code is mandated or is a compliance requirement, e.g. healthcare.
  3. Reliability and security are imperative.

Choose QR codes if:

  1. Where marketing and consumer engagement are the principle requirements.
  2. QR codes are easily identifiable to the consumer for scanning purposes.
  3. It’s for marketing or consumer use – today’s smartphones support QR reading.

If you’re still struggling to work out which code to use, talk to our team.


Whilst we attempt to update this page as changes occur we do not guarantee its accuracy and recommend that you contact GS1 Australia for the most up to date advice.