PLU Codes Frequently Asked Questions

  • Created : May 12, 2018
  • Last Updated: November 20, 2019

What is a Price Look-Up (PLU) code?

PLU codes are 4 or 5 digit numbers which have been used by supermarkets since 1990 to make check-out and inventory control easier, faster, and more accurate. They ensure that the correct price is paid by consumers by removing the need for cashiers to identify the product; e.g., whether or not it is conventionally or organically grown. They are primarily assigned to identify individual bulk fresh produce (and related items such as nuts and herbs) and will appear on a small sticker applied to the individual piece of fresh produce. The PLU number identifies produce items based upon various attributes which can include the commodity, the variety, the growing methodology (e.g. organic) and the size group.

The 4-digit PLU codes for produce are assigned randomly within a series of numbers within the 3000 and 4000 series. There is no intelligence built into the 4-digit code. For example, no one number within the 4-digit number represents anything in particular. The 4-digit codes are for conventionally grown produce. 5-digit codes are used to identify organic produce. The prefix of ‘9’ would be placed in front of the 4-digit conventionally grown code for organic produce. You will not see the 5 digit organic codes in the PLU codes database since they simply have the prefix ‘9’ added to the conventionally grown produce PLU codes. In the future, the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) will begin assigning IFPS PLU codes utilizing the 83000 and 84000 series; however, unlike the ‘9’, the leading digit ‘8’ will have no significance. PLU codes are assigned by the IFPS after rigorous review at both the national and international levels.

What is the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS)?

The International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) is composed of national produce associations from around the globe.

The long term objective of the federation is to improve the supply chain efficiency of the fresh produce industry through developing, implementing and managing harmonized international standards.

For further information about the IFPS, please visit www.ifpsglobal.com.

Is it required to label produce with PLU codes?

No, the PLU system is voluntary and based on business needs. It is not regulated by a governmental agency. Specifically, no regulatory body requires a PLU sticker on loose produce. Labeling produce with PLU codes are typically required by the retail industry to assist with point-of-sale (POS) identification. In various countries, most medium to large retailers expect a PLU as part of conducting business.

Why are some produce items labeled and others not?

Some items will be marked with PLU codes while others are not. One can't imagine green beans or mushrooms with stickers, however PLU codes may be used on signage or by another means for these types of commodities. Other items like apples or leaf lettuce are being either stickered or banded with a PLU code. The principal objective of PLU codes is to create a common code which becomes the building block for system wide communication of electronic data.

How do I code an item that doesn’t have a PLU code in the database?

If a code does not currently exist for the product, a Retailer Assigned PLU Code can be used or an application can be submitted for a new PLU code if the criteria are met.

How do I apply for a new PLU code?

There is an application process and criteria which can be located by selecting the menu option from the IFPS PLU Code page for ‘Apply for a New PLU’. It contains the assignment criteria along with the application and supporting documentation needed. PLU applications are reviewed on a set schedule, please refer to the application assignment criteria for submittal and approval dates.

Are there any restrictions for applying for a new PLU code?

The product must be a unique variety, available to the entire global produce industry and available from multiple marketers. Codes will not be assigned for a product that is controlled by one grower or by multiple growers that are controlled by a single entity. Please refer to the Criteria for Number Assignments section on the application for further information.

How do I code organically grown produce with a PLU code?

Add a '9' in front of the four digit PLU code for the conventionally grown item. For example, the PLU code for a standard yellow banana is 4011 where an organically grown standard yellow banana would be 94011.

In the future, the IFPS will begin assigning IFPS PLU codes utilizing the 83000 and 84000 series; however, unlike the ‘9’, the leading digit ‘8’ will have no significance. When this occurs, the 83000 series will be used to assign PLU codes for conventionally grown produce items and the 84000 series will be used to identify the corresponding organic item.

What happened to the prefix ‘8’ previously designated to identify GMO produce items?

As the adoption of PLU codes has gained traction, the IFPS has committed to transitioning the previously unused ‘8’ prefix to accommodate an increase in varieties of fresh produce items as they enter the market.

Though the ‘8’ prefix (83000-84999) was once reserved for GMO produce items, the prefix was never used at retail. Stripping the prefix of this particular designation will yield one thousand additional PLU codes to be used in future years. The 83000 series will be reserved for conventionally grown items where the 84000 series will designate the corresponding organic item.

Do I need to put the name of the commodity/variety or company name on the PLU sticker?

No, the PLU coding system is a voluntary system and is used primarily for POS (point-ofsale) identification at the retailer. The only requirement for the sticker is the 4 or 5 digit number. If there is enough retail space on the sticker, you can place whatever else you’d like to place on the sticker.

What is the DataBar and how does it relate to the PLU code?

The DataBar is the name of the barcode that acts similarly to the linear UPC (Universal Product Code). It is encoded with a 14 digit number called a GTIN (Global Trade Item Number). It was designed to fit on smaller items that are not large enough to use a traditional GTIN barcode; e.g., loose/bulk produce. This barcode, also called the Stacked Ominidirectional DataBar, can be printed on the same sticker on which the PLU code is printed.

Will I still need to use the PLU code if I’m using the DataBar?

Yes, the PLU code will be the human readable portion of the label if the DataBar does not scan.

What is a QR code and can it be used in place of a PLU code?

A QR code is a Quick Response code. It is a 2 dimensional barcode and it is more similar to a UPC than a PLU code. Bar codes are usually linked to a database that the scanning device pulls information from (price, name, etc.) whereas QR Codes actually contain information. QR Codes do not need to pull data from a database because the information is embedded within the code.