A recent Sunday freestanding insert from SmartSource contained a “marked uptick” in the number of manufacturer coupons bearing the GS1 DataBar as the sole bar code, noted Alan Williams, vice president of application development for Ahold USA, Landover, Md.
After about two years of delays, coupons bearing only the DataBar, an information-rich bar code designed to improve coupon processing and deter fraud, were slated to enter the marketplace in substantial numbers this year, with retailers expected to be able to scan and process them at the checkout. Since 2008, coupons have included both the DataBar and the traditional UPC-A bar code, an interim format intended to ease the transition to DataBar-only coupons.
In at least one newspaper insert, the transition to the DataBar appears to be occurring. Of the 54 unique coupons for CPG products in the insert, contained in the Washington Post on April 15, two-thirds (36) use only the DataBar while the remaining 18 continue to use the interim format consisting of the DataBar and UPC-A bar code, noted Williams, who is also co-chair of the Joint Industry Coupon Committee (JICC), the multi-association industry group that sets coupon policies.
“This is the first time I have seen the number of GS1 DataBar-only coupons exceed the number of [coupons with the] interim format,” Williams said. “Before, I would have to search the insert looking for DataBar only.” On a company basis the coupons were split 50/50, with 12 of the 24 using the GS1 DataBar only and 12 who did not, he added.
The CPG companies with GS1 DataBar-only coupons included: Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, McNeil-PPC, Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, Colgate-Palmolive, GE Lighting, Chattem, Hormel, Earthgrains Baking, Sargento, Massimo and Zanetti Beverage USA.
The CPG companies using the interim format were: Whitewave, Gorton’s, Campbell, Clorox, KAO USA, WD-40, Hill’s Pet, Green Mountain Roasters, Abbott Nutrition, Kraft, Snyder’s-Lance and Schiff Nutrition. The JICC, which includes representatives from Grocery Manufacturers Association, Food Marketing Institute, National Grocers Association, National Association of Chain Drug Stores and GS1 US, adopted the “expanded stacked” version of the DataBar, with up to 74 numeric characters, to replace the UPC-A code in 2007.
Since then, retailers have been encouraged to prepare their POS systems to accommodate the DataBar. Industry surveys indicate that most retailers are DataBar-ready, though some smaller operators may not be. Cashiers who can’t scan the DataBar would have to process a DataBar-only coupon manually, slowing up the checkout.
The DataBar is designed to encapsulate a great deal more information than the UPC-A code. For example, it accommodates longer manufacturer identification numbers (MINs), addressing a major deficiency in the UPC-A code. Manufacturers will have the opportunity to develop more robust coupon offers, including values in any amount up to $999.99, as well as cross-promotions with one or two other brands.
The DataBar also offers automatic expiration-date checking, a reduced need for 992 bypass codes, reduced cashier intervention, improved scan rates and increased speed of checkout. The DataBar also contains fewer human-readable elements — only the company prefix and the offer code — helping to reduce fraud and mis-redemption.