AUGUST 16, 2019
The PLU or Price Look-Up code is a 4- or 5-digit number that is primarily used on fresh produce items and will typically appear on a small sticker that is applied to an individual piece of fresh produce. The PLU code identifies produce items based upon the commodity, variety and size group. They are used by supermarkets to make check-out and inventory control easier, faster and more accurate.
These numbers are assigned by the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS). The mission of the IFPS is to improve the supply chain efficiency of the fresh produce industry through developing, implementing and managing harmonized international standards.
A current listing of over 1,450 fresh produce PLU codes and additional commodity information can be found by accessing the IFPS website. The free database is searchable by PLU code or different attributes including commodity, variety and size.
Produce PLU codes are randomly assigned within the 3000 and 4000 series of numbers. The individual numbers within the 4-digit number do not represent anything. There are currently over 1,450 PLU codes assigned for fresh produce. The 4-digit codes in the PLU codes database represent conventionally grown produce. A prefix of '9' is placed in front of the 4-digit conventionally grown code to identify organic produce. There are no other existing established prefixes other than the '9'. Any other prefix used or length other than the standard 4- or 5-digit number is not part of the internationally standardized list of PLU codes for use with fresh produce. It is suggested that you contact your local retailer produce manager for information.
As the adoption of PLU codes gain further traction in the produce industry, the IFPS has committed to transitioning the previously unused prefix '8' to accommodate an increase in varieties of fresh produce items as they enter the market. For further information, please refer to the press release on the subject.
The PLU coding system is a globally used system and thus a code can be used in any growing region unless specified. This system is voluntary; not mandated by any governing body. Labeling produce with PLU codes are typically required by the retail industry to assist with point-of-sale (POS) identification. Some items will be marked with PLU codes while others will not; e.g., smaller items such as green beans and mushrooms. PLU codes may be used on signage or by another means for these type of commodities.
The codes are not intended to convey information to consumers. They are simply business tools for accurate price rings at the cash register, inventory control and category management.
Retailer Assigned PLU Codes
When no standard PLU code exists in the PLU codes database, Retailer Assigned Codes can be used. Retailer Assigned PLU codes allow retailers to designate their own numbers for items that do not have a standard PLU code assigned; however, these codes remain within the series of numbers assigned to the produce industry (3000, 4000, 83000 and 84000). After a supplier makes specific arrangements with all retailers that will receive the item, a Retailer Assigned PLU code may be used. Each retailer may assign a different PLU code to the same item, so for items where multiple Retailer Assigned codes exist, it is recommended to get the agreement in writing for your records.
Retailer Assigned PLU codes are easily identified in the IFPS PLU database, and for some commodities where there are a large number of varieties, e.g. apples or oranges, a block of Retailer Assigned codes is available for new varieties within those classifications. There are also Retailer Assigned PLU codes under the category 'For Use with All Commodities' which can be used for any commodity/variety. It is crucial that before using one of these codes, you contact your retailer(s) to ensure they are not using that code for another variety of that item.
Since there is a limited, reserved range of numbers available for assignment of harmonized IFPS PLU codes, the use of Retailer Assigned codes is prevalent. The codes used must be those listed in the database and designated as Retailer Assigned - they cannot be randomly chosen. Any number not yet assigned, and not included in the blocks of Retailer Assigned numbers are reserved for assignment by the Board of the IFPS. If one of these codes is used incorrectly, there is a risk of product refusal as new harmonized numbers are assigned. In addition in some countries, government subsidy programs use the PLU codes database and do not recognize unassigned codes when validating transactions for reimbursement to retailers. This will cause major issues in retail point of sale systems.
For a list of the existing Retailer Assigned PLU codes, please refer here.
If you sell the same item to multiple retailers and they are using different Retailer Assigned codes, we suggest that you apply for a new PLU code.
PLU Code Application
To apply for a new PLU code, please complete the PLU application ensuring all assignment criteria are met and submit to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note there are four application review periods in a year. The fee for applying is $1,000 per application for members of any IFPS member organization and $2,000 for non-members. Details regarding the application review process is included in the application.
PLU Codes Initiative for Mexico
PLU codes are now being used in Mexico. An initiative has been launched to assist the fresh produce industry.
There are label manufacturers available to assist with the creation of PLU stickers.
International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) provides an international forum to improve the supply chain efficiency of the fresh produce industry through developing, implementing and managing harmonized international standards.
E-Learning Course - Produce Identification in Fresh Produce Industry
Designed to assist the produce industry to learn how to identify their products along the supply chain, this e-Learning module is available to help improve supply chain efficiencies from the field to the consumer and ensure that the right product gets to the right place at the right time.