PMA Develops Portal to Aid Produce Industry’s DataBar Transition

The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has developed two online tools to help suppliers and retail buyers of loose and bulk produce items transition to use of DataBar item-level coding.

The DataBar Online Web site and the DataBar Implementation Guide were created by a subgroup of the Produce Electronic Identification Board (PEIB), the PMA board responsible for creating produce price look-up (PLU) codes and standardized Universal Product Code (UPC) numbers.

DataBar Online is an online portal and central database that enables produce suppliers to link Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN) to their PLU numbers, and upload this information online. Retailers can then access the central database and download the appropriate GTINs into their point-of-sale systems. The DataBar Implementation Guide explains DataBar and provides step-by-step instruction for obtaining a company prefix from the standards organization GS1, assigning GTINs to items and communicating this information to buyers.

“DataBar is all about better category management,” said Gary Fleming, VP of industry technology and standards at Newark, Del.-based PMA. “These new tools make it clear and easy for suppliers and buyers to transition to this advanced technology and begin realizing its benefits sooner.”

According to PMA, DataBar’s benefits to the grower/shipper include improved product-movement data, and the abilities to track shrink and to more accurately differentiate between product and brand performance that have long been enjoyed by the packaged goods industry. Retailers using DataBar will be able to better capture accurate product pricing at retail, for example between conventional and organic product, and allow consumers to scan their own produce in self-scan environments. DataBar’s benefits are further outlined in the new implementation guide.

Formerly known as Reduced Space Symbology (RSS), DataBar is the name of a new bar code designed by the standards organization GS1 to fit in small, space-constrained areas such as PLU stickers. The DataBar bar code encodes the 14-digit GTIN. The DataBar is only used for items that currently have a PLU sticker affixed; for every PLU number sold, a single GTIN is created. Those wishing to begin using DataBar must first acquire a company prefix from the GS1 organization in their country.

“It’s important to be clear that DataBar only supports item-level coding,” added Fleming. “While DataBar uses similar GS1 coding formats as required under the Produce Traceability Initiative, it has nothing to do with the case-level coding endorsed by the PTI. Any communication related to the DataBar is completely unrelated to the PTI.”

The DataBar Implementation Guide is available free to all industry members; it can be accessed online at The DataBar Online utility is accessible free to PMA members via

PMA will host a workshop on transitioning to DataBar on Saturday, Oct. 3, at the 2009 Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition; the convention will be held Oct. 2 to Oct. 5 in Anaheim, Calif. PMA’s Fleming will lead that workshop. For more information about Fresh Summit and to register online, visit Advance registration closes Sept. 18; on-site registration will also be available.
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