The first supermarket to adopt barcode scanning in Australia was SIMS supermarket in Melbourne’s western suburbs. It’s not recorded which product was the first to be scanned. Manufacturers and retailers formed the Australian Product Numbering Association in 1978 and, by 1986, 90 per cent of grocery items sold in Australia carried barcodes.
Barcodes were introduced in the United States in 1974, where the first product to be electronically scanned was a packet of Wrigley’s Chewing Gum. The scanning system became global in 1976 with the addition of another digit to the code. Australian supermarkets saw the advantages of electronic scanning, but it took some time before the new technology was widely implemented.
When the Australian Product Numbering Association was formed in 1978, Mr Bill Pratt, owner of the Safeway chain of stores in Victoria and representative of the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) was elected Chairman. The Grocery Manufacturers of Australia (GMA) guaranteed a loan to provide initial funding for APNA. The first manufacturer to join was Rowntree Hoadley.
By 1986, 500 stores were using scanning technology in Australia, but it wasn’t until 1990 that Franklins became the first supermarket chain to have scanning in place all of its 191 stores. Scanning was gradually adopted by department stores, pharmacies and the wider retail industry.
In 1993 the Association changed its name to EAN Australia and in 2005 was re-branded to GS1 Australia in line with a global initiative to reflect one global organisation, one global system and one global standard. Barcodes within Australia are issued by an authorised GS1 organisation, based on current global standards.
In Australia, GS1 Australia administers the GS1 system and is the source for GS1 barcode numbers and standards. GS1 barcode numbers allocated to companies in Australia begin with the prefix 93. GS1 Australia is governed by an independent Board and Council, consisting of 15 representatives from various trade and industry associations, including major retailers and manufacturers. It is a not-for-profit, member-based organisation.