19 December 2023

What is Sunrise 2027 and how can brands prepare for it?

Throughout history, finding new and better ways of doing things has been a driving force for innovation. Not much is immune to optimisation, which is why it’s so strange to see things remain unchanged for decades. Funnily enough, one of those things is the barcode – specifically, the Universal Product Code (UPC), which has been in use for almost 50 years.

But all that is about to change, as not-for-profit standards body GS1 US has developed a standard to unlock the power of a QR code in a very big way – GS1 Digital Link. And now they have initiated a monumental shift with a timeline in place that will move the industry forward to better connect data between physical and digital worlds – Sunrise 2027. GS1 US is urging retailers to get behind the initiative with a worldwide push called ‘Sunrise 2027’ with the goal of bringing all retailers to the starting line. If you think we’re connected today… we’re only just getting started. Unlike the 1D UPC code, which just contains a product’s global trade identifier number (GTIN), the 2D barcode is a GTIN + batch + logistics + marketing activation all in one.

Gena Morgan, Vice President, Standards at GS1 US, says; “One of the obvious strengths of the 2D barcode with GS1 Digital Link is its ability to link to information on a product’s origin, manufacturing details, sustainability practices, and care instructions, which is great news for consumers who are increasingly looking for greater transparency and traceability.”

Gena Morgan of GS1 US

“They also aid in inventory management across the supply chain, while preventing items with expired dates and recall orders from being sold. When it comes to food, this is handy, allowing retailers to keep an eye on products approaching their sell-by dates and offer discounts accordingly.”

Morgan continues “When it comes to a broader rollout of the Digital Link 2D barcode, we anticipate a ‘transition period’ where national brands will carry both the traditional UPC code and the 2D code – they will coexist while retailers roll out the capability, which may extend beyond 2027 for smaller retailers. Puma is one example of a brand whose labels currently carry both barcodes as they have led in the adoption of 2D with GS1 Digital Link.”

Helpfully, GS1 US has recently launched a cutting-edge ‘barcode capabilities test kit’ designed to assist retailers in assessing their preparedness for the impending 2D barcode transition. Moving forward, we anticipate a steady increase in products adorned with 2D barcodes or even a combination of both traditional and 2D variants.

Mike Grady who oversees business development efforts at Equator, sees the innovation as a key tactic for brands looking to build trust with their consumers. He says, “To make the most from this opportunity, brands should seek to weave this new element into the bigger story told by their packaging, incorporating it into their brand strategy. For some, it may provide the ideal opportunity to reappraise their current packaging design.”

“At Equator, we’re well-placed to help you respond strategically to this changing industry standard particularly where it is being incorporated as part of a wider redesign project. Whatever your creative or strategic vision, our team is here to help you achieve it.”

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