What is a GS1 Composite Barcode? – A Complete Guide

What is a GS1 composite barcode

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GS1 Composite Barcodes are a sophisticated barcode solution that combines the simplicity of linear barcodes with the advanced capabilities of 2D barcodes. This hybrid approach allows for encoding a wealth of information in a single symbol, providing businesses with greater flexibility. 

In this article, we will explore what GS1 Composite Barcodes are, examining their components and various variations. We will also compare GS1 Composite Barcodes with regular GS1 barcodes. 

So, without further ado, let’s get started. 

What are GS1 Composite Barcodes? - A Deep Explanation

Definition of GS1 composite barcodes

GS1 Composite Barcodes are a specialised type of barcode that combines the features of both linear barcodes and 2D barcodes into a single, cohesive barcode symbology. This integration allows for a high data encoding capacity while maintaining a compact size. 

The linear component of the barcode encodes primary identification data such as Stock Keeping Units (SKUs), Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), Serial Shipping Container Codes (SSCCs), and Global Location Numbers (GLNs). In contrast, the 2D component encodes supplementary information like batch numbers, expiration dates, and manufacturing details.

In a GS1 Composite Barcode, the linear barcode is always positioned at the base, with the 2D composite component placed directly above or beside it. Moreover, these barcodes are bi-directionally readable, meaning they can be scanned from both top to bottom and left to right, ensuring flexibility and reliability in various operational settings.

GS1 Composite Barcodes are particularly useful in environments where space is limited, but extensive data must be included. 

For example, in the healthcare industry, these barcodes are used on medical devices and pharmaceutical packaging to include critical information such as batch numbers and expiration dates, ensuring patient safety and compliance with regulatory standards. 

In the retail industry, they are used on products to track inventory, manage recalls, and provide additional product information without taking up much space on packaging. 

What are the Components of the GS1 Composite Barcode?

Two components of the GS1 composite barcode

GS1 Composite Barcode consists of two main components- a 1D linear component and a 2D composite component. Here’s a brief explanation of each component. 

1D Linear Component

The 1D linear component consists of a series of vertical bars and spaces representing encoded data. It is the standard barcode that encodes the primary identification of the item. 

The 1D linear can be one of several types:

2D Composite Component

The 2D composite component consists of patterns of squares, dots, hexagons, and other geometric shapes that represent data. It is the second layer sitting above or beside the 1D barcode. The 2D composite component holds more data per unit area. 

The composite component can be of three types. 

  • CC-A: Suitable for encoding less data
  • CC-B: Offers more capacity than CC-A
  • CC-C: Provides the highest data capacity and is used for complex data needs

What are the Variations of the GS1 Composite Barcode?

Three variations of the GS1 composite barcode

The GS1 Composite Barcode system is categorised into three types of symbology: 

  • GS1 Composite Code A (CC-A)
  • GS1 Composite Code B (CC-B)
  • GS1 Composite Code C (CC-C)


Each code type is tailored to accommodate varying lengths and complexities of data, ensuring flexibility across diverse industry needs.

GS1 Composite Code A (CC-A)

The CC-A encodes shorter data strings of up to 56 alphanumeric characters. It is used in retail environments where the additional data requirements are minimal but still crucial, such as the weight and price of fresh produce. 

GS1 Composite Code B (CC-B)

The CC-B encodes longer data strings of up to 338 alphanumeric characters. The capacity to hold more data makes CC-B essential for sectors requiring detailed product traceability and consumer safety.

The CC-B barcode variation is commonly employed in healthcare to add extensive medical information to labels, such as medication dosages, compound ingredients, and usage instructions. 

GS1 Composite Code C (CC-C)

The CC-C encodes the most complex and longest data strings, up to 2,361 alphanumeric characters. CC-C’s ability to encode vast amounts of information supports enhanced tracking and management of goods across global supply chains.

The CC-C barcode variation is used in logistics and supply chain management as it facilitates the inclusion of comprehensive shipping details, manufacturer data, and batch numbers. 

How to Choose a Suitable CC Variation to Use?

Choosing between GS1 Composite Codes A, B, and C involves evaluating your needs against each code’s capabilities. Each code type is optimised for different scenarios to reduce scanning errors and enhance efficiency based on specific industry requirements. 

Here is a table to help you choose a suitable GS1 Composite Barcode variation. 

Code Type:
Ideal Usage:
Best For:
Used in Environments Like:
Code A
Minimal data requirements
Small items with limited space, such as cosmetics or small electronics
Supermarkets, retail stores, point-of-sale terminals
Code B
Moderate data requirements
Medium-sized items requiring additional data, such as pharmaceuticals or nutritional supplements
Pharmacies, clinical settings
Code C
Extensive data requirements
Small items or cases needing comprehensive information, such as automotive parts or industrial equipment
Complex logistical operations, warehouses, manufacturing facilities

How Does the GS1 Composite Barcode Differ from the GS1 Barcode?

Difference table between GS1 composite barcode and GS1 barcode

The GS1 Composite Barcode and the standard GS1 Barcode differ primarily in their structure, data capacity, and applications. Understanding these differences is crucial for choosing the right type of barcode for your specific needs.


A standard GS1 Barcode uses a single linear symbology, such as GS1-128, EAN/UPC, or ITF-14. It encodes primary information in a straightforward, linear format.

In contrast, a GS1 Composite Barcode combines both linear and 2D barcode symbologies. The linear part encodes primary identification data, while the additional 2D Composite Component allows for embedding more detailed information.

Data Capacity

The data capacity of a GS1 Barcode is limited to the capabilities of linear symbology, usually 10-80 characters.  

On the other hand, the GS1 Composite Barcode, with its 2D component, can hold significantly more data, reaching thousands of characters. 

Flexibility and Space Efficiency

GS1 Barcodes are restrictive in terms of data type and space utilisation. They generally encode only alphanumeric data and are suitable for products with enough space to accommodate a longer barcode. 

GS1 Composite Barcodes are highly flexible and can encode various data types, including alphanumeric, bytes, Kanji characters, and more. Their high barcode density nature allows them to encode extensive data in a smaller area, making them highly suitable for products with limited labelling space, such as small electronics, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. 

Scanning Technology

GS1 Barcodes can be scanned using standard laser barcode scanners. These scanners are widely available and cost-effective, making them suitable for high-volume retail and basic inventory applications. 

In contrast, GS1 Composite Barcodes require more advanced scanning technology, such as 2D image-based scanners.   

Application Flexibility

Standard GS1 Barcodes are primarily used for basic product identification and inventory management. They are widely employed in retail environments, where quick scanning and straightforward data encoding are essential. These barcodes are ideal for products that require minimal data, such as price, product ID, and basic tracking information.

GS1 Composite Barcodes are used when more detailed information is needed without sacrificing space efficiency. They are particularly valuable in industries like food, healthcare, and logistics that require comprehensive data encoding for enhanced traceability and regulatory compliance. 

Where are GS1 Composite Barcodes Used?

Five industries where GS1 composite barcodes are used

GS1 composite barcodes are versatile and have been used in various industries. 

Retail and Grocery

GS1 Composite Barcodes are instrumental in managing retail perishable goods, especially grocery stores. A case study from GS1 US shows that implementing these barcodes helped reduce perishable goods waste by approximately 20%. This improvement was achieved through enhanced accuracy in inventory tracking and expiration date management. 


In healthcare, GS1 Composite Barcodes significantly reduce medication errors. According to a 2020 report by the Healthcare Supply Chain Association (HSCA), pharmacies that adopted GS1 Composite Barcodes saw a 30% reduction in dispensing errors. 

This reduction is attributed to precisely including drug names, dosages, and expiration dates within the barcodes. This level of detail ensures that patients receive the correct medications, enhancing adherence to safety protocols and improving overall patient care.

Logistics and Supply Chain

In logistics, GS1 Composite Barcodes optimise the supply chain by embedding extensive data such as identification and detailed shipping information. A notable example is DHL’s 2019 initiative, where the company reported a 15% improvement in package tracking accuracy after integrating GS1 Composite Barcodes into their operations. 


In manufacturing, GS1 Composite Barcodes are used to manage parts and components throughout the production process. These barcodes encode data such as part numbers, production dates, and assembly instructions, ensuring correct parts are used at each stage of production. This detailed tracking improves quality control and reduces manufacturing errors.


In warehouse management, GS1 Composite Barcodes improve inventory tracking and management. By encoding detailed information about stock items, such as SKU numbers, location within the warehouse, and storage conditions, these barcodes enhance the accuracy of inventory counts and streamline operations. This detailed tracking ensures efficient stock retrieval and reduces the risk of inventory discrepancies, ultimately improving the overall efficiency of warehouse management systems.


GS1 Composite Barcode combines the efficiency of traditional 1D linear barcodes with the extensive data capacity of 2D barcodes. The variations, including GS1 Composite Code A (CC-A), GS1 Composite Code B (CC-B), and GS1 Composite Code C (CC-C), cater to diverse data needs, ensuring optimal performance in any application. GS1 Composite Barcode supports effective tracking and compliance, proving essential for retail, healthcare, and logistics business operations.

We hope you found this article helpful in understanding the utility and strategic implementation of GS1 Composite Barcodes in various sectors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can GS1 Composite Barcodes Be Scanned Using 1D Barcode Scanners?

No, GS1 Composite Barcodes cannot be fully scanned using 1D barcode scanners. While the linear component can be read by 1D scanners, the 2D composite component requires an image-based scanner capable of reading 2D barcodes.

Can GS1 Composite Barcodes Be Used With Mobile Scanning Apps?

Yes, GS1 Composite Barcodes can be used with mobile scanning apps, provided the app is designed to read both linear and 2D barcode components. Most modern mobile devices with camera-based scanning apps are capable of reading GS1 Composite Barcodes.

What Are the Main Benefits of Using GS1 Composite Barcodes?

GS1 Composite Barcodes provide enhanced data capacity, improved traceability, and space efficiency. They combine primary and supplementary information in a single symbol, making them ideal for industries that require detailed product information and robust tracking systems.

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