Product Classifications

Product codes are used for a variety of purposes, not least for customs purposes. Choosing the correct code for a specific product is not always straightforward – and if you have any doubt, check with your local customs & excise authority. The following product classifications are used international trade:

  • Combined Nomenclature

  • CPA7, the European Classification of Products by Activity

  • CPC, the United Nations’ Central Product Classification

  • European Article Number (EAN), also called GTIN-13

  • Global Product Classification (GPC)

  • Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs)

  • Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System

  • Harmonized System - 10 digits (USA)

  • International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

  • Japanese Article Number (JAN)

  • Manufacturer Part Number (MPN)

  • Prodcom8

  • Standard International Trade Classification (SITC)

  • TARIC Code

  • UNSPSC, United Nations Standard Products and Services Code

  • Universal Product Code (UPC), also called GTIN-12 and UPC-A

Combined Nomenclature

Council Regulation (EEC) No 2658/87 of 23 July 1987, creates the goods nomenclature called the Combined Nomenclature, or in abbreviated form 'CN', established to meet, at one and the same time, the requirements both of the Common Customs Tariff and of the external trade statistics of the European Union. The Commission established an integrated tariff, of the European Communities, referred to as the 'TARIC code', based on the combined nomenclature. Commission shall adopt each year by means of a Regulation a complete version of the combined nomenclature together with the corresponding autonomous and conventional rates of duty of the Common Customs Tariff, as it results from measures adopted by the Council or by the Commission. The said Regulation shall be published not later than 31 October in the Official Journal of the European Communities and it shall apply from 1 January of the following year.


Issued by: The European Commission.

Structure: Each CN subheading has an eight digit code number: (a) the first six digits shall be the code numbers relating to the headings and subheadings of the harmonized system nomenclature; (b) the seventh and eighth digits shall identify the CN subheadings.

CPA7, the European Classification of Products by Activity

CPA product categories are related to activities as defined by the Statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community (NACE). Each CPA product - whether a transportable or non-transportable good or a service - is assigned to one single NACE activity. This linkage to NACE activities gives the CPA a structure parallel to that of NACE at all levels.

Issues by: Eurostat.

Structure: CPA has a hierarchical structure with six levels, each identified with a specific code:

  • first level: 21 sections (alphabetical code);

  • second level: 88 divisions (two-digit numerical code);

  • third level: 261 groups (three-digit numerical code);

  • fourth level: 575 classes (four-digit numerical code);

  • fifth level: 1,342 categories (five-digit numerical code);

  • sixth level: 3,142 subcategories (six-digit numerical code).

CPC, the United Nations’ Central Product Classification

Issued by: The United Nations Statistics Division 

Structure: The overall set of products is subdivided into a hierarchical, five-level structure of mutually exclusive categories.

The classification structure comprises:

  • Sections – one digit code;
  • Divisions – two-digit code;
  • Groups – three-digit code;
  • Classes – four-digit code;
  • Subclasses – five-digit code.

European Article Number (EAN), also called GTIN-13

Used primarily outside of North America. A unique numerical identifier for commercial products that's usually associated with a barcode printed on retail merchandise.

Issued by: The manufacturer.

Structure: A unique numerical identifier for commercial products that's usually associated with a barcode printed on retail merchandise.

Global Product Classification (GPC)

GPC classifies products by grouping them into categories based on their essential properties as well as their relationships to other products. GPC offers a universal set of standards for everything from a car to a litre of milk.

Issued by: GS1 

Structure: The code identifies a 5 level hierarchy:

Segment: Industry Sector

Family: A broad division of a segment

Class: A group of similar categories

Brick: A category of similar products

Brick Attribute: A particular product detail

Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs)

The GTIN is a globally unique 14-digit code used to identify trade items, products, or services. GTIN is also an umbrella term that refers to the entire family of UCC.EAN data structures. The entire family of data structures within the GTIN is: GTIN-12 (UPC). Currently, GTIN is used exclusively within bar codes, but it could also be used in other data carriers such as radio frequency identification (RFID). The GTIN is only a term and does not impact any existing standards, nor does it place any additional requirements on scanning hardware. For North American companies, the UPC is an existing form of the GTIN. The family of data structures (not symbologies) comprising GTIN include:

  • GTIN-12 (UPC-A): this is a 12-digit number used primarily in North America
  • GTIN-8 (EAN/UCC-8): this is an 8-digit number used predominately outside of North America

  • GTIN-13 (EAN/UCC-13): this is a 13-digit number used predominately outside of North America

  • GTIN-14 (EAN/UCC-14 or ITF-14): this is a 14-digit number used to identify trade items at various packaging levels

Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System

Also known as the Harmonized System (HS) of tariff nomenclature, this is an internationally standardised system of names and numbers to classify traded products. To ensure harmonization, the contracting parties to the Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, have agreed to base their national tariff schedules on the HS nomenclature and Legal Notes. Parties are permitted to subdivide the HS nomenclature beyond 6-digits and add their own Legal Notes according to their own tariff and statistical requirements. Parties often set their customs duties at the 8-digit "tariff code" level. Statistical suffixes are often added to the 8-digit tariff code for a total of 10 digits.

Issued by: The World Customs Organisation 

Structure: The HS Code consists of 6-digits. The first two digits designate the HS Chapter. The second two digits designate the HS heading. The third two digits designate the HS subheading.

Within each of the 21 sections, the HS Code has 4 levels of hierarchy: Section, Chapter, Heading and Sub-heading.

In addition to the HS codes and commodity descriptions, each Section and Chapter of the HS is prefaced by Legal Notes, which are designed to clarify the proper classification of goods.

Harmonized System - 10 digits (USA)

The international Harmonized System (HS) is administrated by the World Customs Organization and serves as the foundation for the import and export classification systems used in the United States. The United States (U.S.) import classification system, the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) administered by the U.S. International Trade Administration Commission (USITC), and the U.S. export classification system, the Schedule B administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Division, both rely on the international HS codes for their 4- and 6-digit headings and subheadings.

Since greater commodity details are needed than the 4- and 6-digit HS headings and subheadings, Harmonized System (HS) codes under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) and Schedule B classification systems expand their scope to 10 digits. HS numbers and Schedule B numbers will be the same up to the first 6 digits as the importing country's classification code.

A Schedule B number is a 10-digit number used in the United States to classify physical goods for export to another country.

To search the Schedule B directory see:

Issued by: U.S.Commerce Department, Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Division 

Structure: The first 6 digits are the same as defined for the Harmonized System (HS) of tariff nomenclature above. The next 4 digits consist of 2 digits further subdividing the product definition and 2 final digits which provide statistical information for a total of 10 digits.

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

A unique numerical identifier for commercial books published since 1970 that can be found on the back of the book along with the barcode.

Issued by: International Standards Organisation

Structure: The ISBN is 13 digits long if assigned on or after 1 January 2007, and 10 digits long if assigned before 2007.

Japanese Article Number (JAN)

Used only in Japan, this is another name for the EAN-13 barcode. The first two digits - the country code - must be 45 or 49 (Japan).

Manufacturer Part Number (MPN)

The number which uniquely identifies the product to its manufacturer.

Issued by: The manufacturer.

Structure: Alphanumeric digits (various lengths).


This is the classification of goods used for statistics on industrial production in the EU.

Prodcom provides statistics on the production of manufactured goods. The term comes from the French "PRODuction COMmunautaire" (Community Production) for mining, quarrying and manufacturing: sections B and C of the Statistical Classification of Economy Activity in the European Union (NACE 2). Prodcom uses the product codes specified on the Prodcom List, which contains about 3900 different types of manufactured products. Most product codes correspond to one or more Combined Nomenclature (CN) codes, but some (mostly industrial services) do not.

Issued by: Eurostat 

Structure: Products are identified by an 8-digit code.

The first four digits are the classification of the producing enterprise given by the Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community (NACE) and the first six correspond to the CPA (Classification of Products by Activity) – see above.

The remaining digits specify the product in more detail.

Standard International Trade Classification (SITC)

SITC is the United Nations' Standard International Trade Classification, an international classification of goods used to classify the exports and imports of a country to enable comparing different countries and years.

The classification system is maintained by the United Nations. The SITC classification is currently at revision four, which was promulgated in 2006.

The SITC is recommended only for analytical purposes - trade statistics are recommended to be collected and compiled in the Harmonized System instead.

Issued by: The United Nations

Structure: The hierarchical structure of the classification as follows:

Sections – one-digit code;

Divisions – two-digit codes;

Groups – three-digit codes;

Subgroups – four-digit codes;

Items – five-digit codes.


The European Commission established an integrated tariff, of the European Communities, referred to as the 'TARIC code', based on the combined nomenclature.

The combined nomenclature, together with the rates of duty and other relevant charges, and the tariff measures included in the Taric or in other Community arrangements shall constitute the common customs tariff referred to in Article 9 of the Treaty, which shall be applied on the importation of goods into the Community.

Issued by: The European Union

Structure: A 14 digit code- the first 6 digits are those of Harmonised System, the next 2 digits are those of the relevant CN Subheading and the next 6 are those of the TARIC Subheading (2 digits) with the final 4 being additional TARIC Codes.

TARIC codes structure

UNSPSC, United Nations Standard Products and Services Code

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a taxonomy of products and services for use in eCommerce. Version 16, released in 2014, contained over 50,000 commodities. The latest release of the code set is 19.0501 (as of July 2016).

The UNSPSC competes with a number of other product and commodity coding schemes, including the European Union's Common Procurement Vocabulary, Germany's Eclass, and GS1's Global Product Classification.

Issued by: The UnitedNations

Structure: It is a four-level hierarchy coded as an eight-digit number, with an optional fifth level adding two more digits.

The four primary levels of the code are: Segment, Family, Class and Commodity.

Each level is coded in two decimal digits, with '00' treated specially to give segments, families and classes their own eight-digit codes.

Optionally, a further two digits can be added for the business function, such as 'retail' or wholesale.

Universal Product Code (UPC), also called GTIN-12 and UPC-A

The Universal Product Code (UPC) is a barcode symbology that is widely used in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, in European and other countries for tracking trade items in stores.

UPC (technically refers to UPC-A) consists of 12 numeric digits, that are uniquely assigned to each trade item. Along with the related EAN barcode, the UPC is the barcode mainly used for scanning of trade items at the point of sale, per GS1 specifications. UPC data structures are a component of GTINs and follow the global GS1 specification, which is based on international standards. But some retailers (clothing, furniture) do not use the GS1 system (rather other barcode symbologies or article number systems). On the other hand, some retailers use the EAN/UPC barcode symbology, but without using a GTIN (for products, brands, sold at such retailers only).

Structure: Each UPC-A barcode consists of a scannable strip of black bars and white spaces above a sequence of 12 numerical digits. No letters, characters or other content of any kind may appear on a UPC-A barcode. There is a one-to-one correspondence between 12-digit number and strip of black bars and white spaces, i.e. there is only one way to represent each 12-digit number visually and there is only one way to represent each strip of black bars and white spaces numerically.

The scannable area of every UPC-A barcode follows the pattern SLLLLLLMRRRRRRE, where S (start), M (middle), and E (end) guard patterns are represented the same way on every UPC-A barcode and the L (left) and R (right) sections collectively represent the 12 numerical digits that make each UPC-A unique. The first digit L indicates a particular number system to be used by the following digits. The last digit R is an error detecting check digit, that allows some errors to be detected in scanning or manual entry. The guard patterns separate the two groups of six numerical digits and establish the timing.

N.B: UPC-A 042100005264 is equivalent to UPC-E 425261 with the "EOEEOO" parity pattern, which is defined by UPC-A number system 0 and UPC-A check digit 4.