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PRICE LOOK-UP (PLU) CODES

Compiled By: James H. Culbert
Last Updated: 29 Aug 2007


Introduction

PLU stands for Price Look-Up code.  PLUs are assigned for use with fresh produce that are sold loose, bunched, or in bulk (i.e. an individual apple or a bunch of greens).  Because the average person cannot determine, for example, whether an apple is a Fuji or a Gala by looking at it, a PLU code is used by retailers to quickly determine the price at checkout.  The PLU code is entered by the cashier at the cash register, and the item is weighed.  The PLU code tells the store's database the identity of the item and the cost per pound or piece.

PLU Codes

A PLU code contains 4 or 5 digits.  As of August 2007 about 1380 PLUs have been assigned.  (This includes codes designated as retailer assigned.)

Organically grown produce is coded by adding a "9" in front of the four digit PLU code.  For example, an organically grown banana would be "94011".  Genetically engineered produce is coded by adding an "8" in front of the four digit PLU code.  For example, a genetically engineered banana would be "84011".  For imported produce, if only one number is provided in the PLU list, it is used.  If two numbers are provided (east and west), then the west code is used for imports.  For produce grown in Canada, if only one number is provided in the PLU list, it is used.  If two numbers are provided, the east number is used to identify items grown east of the Ontario/Manitoba border, and the west number for items grown west of the Ontario/Manitoba border.  There are different numbers for east and west mainly due to pricing differences.  An apple grown in Washington State, for example, will probably have a different cost than one grown in another area.

International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS)

PLUs were first designated by the Produce Electronic Information Board.  In Sept 2006, the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) was established to continue this work.  The IFPS is now able to provide an international forum to address issues in the produce sector and creates the first incorporated body made up of national organizations providing direct representation of their respective countries’ constituents.  The IFPS was incorporated in the United Kingdom and the Produce Marketing Association (USA) has assumed responsibility as the Secretary-General.

More information about the IFPS may be found at their website:  International Federation for Produce Standards.  Among other things, this site offers a PLU Codes User's Guide and provides free access for all Price-Look Up (PLU) codes currently assigned.

Producing PLU Code Labels

The following guidelines are provided for producing PLU code labels:

  • Use all four digits of the PLU code, preferably surrounded by a border, and always preceded by the # sign.
  • For maximum legibility at the checkout, each digit in the PLU code should:

  • a. be a minimum 14 point type size.  Where a larger label permits, use larger type (there is no maximum size)
    b. have a width no less than 1/3 its height
    c. be printed in high contrast to the background.  An ideal is black print on a white background.
  • At all times remember that the numbers must be read quickly and accurately when viewed by a cashier through a clear plastic bag.  Please print so the number is the largest type on the label.
PLU Code Index

I have created an indexed list of PLU codes as of July 2004.  I have also linked to this index some images of PLU code labels.  More images will be added as time allows.  Product Look-Up Code Index


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