In June 1974, in a supermarket in the town of Troy, Ohio, a shopper pulled a 10-pack of Wrigleys Juicy Fruit chewing gum from his shopping basket and handed it to the cashier, who promptly – at 8.01am – scanned the item and handed back the receipt.
That pack of gum, and the receipt, now sit in Washington DC's Smithsonian Institution as a piece of packaging and retail history – the first ever commercial product to be scanned by its Universal Product Code (UPC), or what we know better today as the barcode.
Today, close to six billion products are scanned by their barcode daily around the world, and it's a ubiquitous item not just on every piece of product packaging, but in just about every facet of the modern economy from manufacturing to supply logistics.
The birth of the technology itself happened a year earlier, making this year the barcode's 40th anniversary.
It was in 1973 that industry experts, including what is today the track and tracing specialist Global Standards 1 (GS1), and the US National Association of Food Chains (NAFC) approved a standard based on technology from electronics giant IBM that created a global language of business that allows visibility in the entire supply chain across all industry sectors.
Indeed, the barcode still remains the most widely used identification system and supply chain standard in the world, enabling two million companies in over 150 countries to identify, capture and share information about products, cartons, pallets, documents, locations, assets and more.
GS1 is a neutral, not-for-profit, international organisation that develops global standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply chains across industries.
GS1, with its headquarters in Brussels, has local member organisations in over 110 countries, including Australia since 1983.
"GS1 has played a major role in shaping the landscape of the global market during the last 40 years because the organisation's visionary leaders saw the huge potential of collaboration in the area of standards that the barcode made possible for the entire supply chain," the CEO of GS1 Australia, Maria Palazzolo, said.
The senior business manager of retail giant Woolworths, Ian Dunn, who is also a member of the GS1 Australia board, said the whole-hearted worldwide adoption of the barcode showed the value of global cooperation on standards.
“The last 40 years of GS1 barcodes in the retail, food and grocery sectors has been the foundation of efficiency and accuracy in the supply chain from manufacturing and distribution through to the seamless delivery of product to consumers on supermarket shelves,” he said.
“The next 40 years will be a great opportunity for other sectors to get involved to realise the many benefits and potential of standards.
“Having one global standard that is accepted and adopted by every player will undoubtedly protect the global supply chain market.”