What is an EAN-8 / UPC-E barcode, and how is it structured?

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EAN-8 is the short form of EAN-13. The EAN-8 barcode saves space, providing an identifying code for products such as candy, cigarettes, or other small or individually wrapped items. This code is only used if the product is too small for an EAN-13 code. The flag digits make the code ideal for international use, as opposed to UPC codes, which are limited to the United States.

Note: An EAN-8 code will only be granted by the GS1 organization if an EAN-13 uses more than 25% of the front space of the article – in other words, if the item is too small to support a full EAN-13. As it requires a dedicated prefix, it's an expensive barcode, especially as you cannot convert these barcodes to EAN-13.

The EAN-8 barcode has a left-hand guard pattern, four odd parity digits, a center guard pattern, four even parity digits, and a right-hand guard pattern. It has two flag digits, five data digits, and one check digit.

The EAN-8 code is a 2 or 3-digit number system code, followed by a 4 or 5-digit product code which is assigned directly by the numbering authority. This means that any company can request an EAN-8 code regardless of its EAN-13 manufacturer or product code, which has the disadvantage of having to be digitally stored (in a database, for example) as a separate product since there is no way to translate an EAN-8 code to an EAN-13 equivalent.

EAN-8 barcodes may be used to encode 8-digit Global Trade Identification Numbers which are product identifiers from the GS1 System. A GTIN-8 begins with a 2 or 3-digit GS1 prefix, followed by a 5 or 4-digit item reference element depending on the length of the GS1 prefix, and a checksum digit.

EAN-8 codes are commonly used throughout the world and companies can also use them to encode 8-digit Restricted Circulation Numbers which they use to identify own-brand products sold only in their own stores.

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