Price look-up code
Price look-up codes, commonly called PLU codes, PLU numbers, PLUs, produce codes, or produce labels, are identification numbers affixed to produce in grocery stores and supermarkets to make check-out and inventory control easier, faster, and more accurate. The code may be a four-digit number, currently in the 3000–4999 range, identifying the type of bulk produce, including the variety, or a five-digit number.
A fifth digit "may be adopted for use on non-conventionally grown product", such as organic (prefixed by a '9') or genetically modified (prefixed by an '8'). The idea that such prefixes can be reliably used by consumers to tell whether a product is genetically modified or not has been called an urban legend by Jeffrey M. Smith writing on The Huffington Post. However, the July 2012 Produce PLU Codes User's Guide prepared by the International Federation for Produce Standards specifies that three categories have been established for the fifth (leading) digit qualifier. A '9' identifies organic produce, an '8' indicates genetically modified produce, and a '0' or no fifth digit indicates non-qualified produce. Thus, (if "no fifth digit" indicates "non-qualified produce"), all common produce, for example the Pink Lady apples in the illustration, are "non-qualified."
The codes have been in use since 1990, and there are over 1400 PLU codes assigned as of 2012. Use of PLU codes eliminates the need for grocery store checkers to identify each variety of produce visually. This advantage is especially important with the growth of the organic produce market; organic and conventional oranges, for example, may look the same but have very different prices.
The system is administered by the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS), a global coalition of fruit and vegetable associations, formed in 2001, "as equal partners to pursue the task of introducing a global standard for the use of international Price Look-Up (PLU) numbers." The group's work is coordinated by the Produce Marketing Association.
PLU codes are used primarily in retail grocery stores or supermarkets, where they are keyed into a point of sale system by a cashier, or by the customer at a self checkout machine, while the produce is being weighed on a scale. PLUs can also be defined by the individual retailer, or location, and used in place of barcodes for a variety of reasons.
Price look-up codes are generally printed on small stickers or tags. Since 2006, the 4-digit code is often supplemented by a GS1 DataBar Stacked Omnidirectional barcode. Various new technologies are under consideration, including etching using lasers and printing or "tattooing" using ink made from substances such as the juice from blueberries .
- Universal Product Code, another system for identification of consumer products
- Stock-keeping unit (SKU) codes, another system
- Packaging and labeling
- "FAQ Product Identification". IFPS. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
- "Produce PLU Codes A Users’ Guide – 2012". IFPS. Retrieved 2012-09-06.
- Smith, Jeffrey (23 February 2010). "PLU Codes Do Not Indicate Genetically Modified Produce". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- International Federation for Produce Standards. "Product PLU Codes A Users’ Guide – 2012". Retrieved 8 October 2012.
- "FAQ about PLU". IFPS. July 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- "About IFPS: Who are we?". IFPS. 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2012. "IFPS is composed of national produce associations from around the globe."
- "What is the IFPS?". IFPS :: FAQs. Produce Marketing Association. 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- Greg Rowe (2006-06-08). "GS1 DataBar (RSS) Fresh Foods Implementation Pilot Update from U Connect 2006 Presentation (PDF)". Retrieved 2010-02-12.
- Julia Moskin (July 19, 2005). "Tired of Prying Off Stickers? Tattooed Fruit Is on the Way". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2012.