How do I Find Out the SKU Number of a Grocery Item?

By Shane Stegmiller

An SKU is often a part of a product's bar code.
i pencil and barcode image by Anatoly Tiplyashin from

SKU stands for Stock Keeping Unit and is a unique code that allows grocery stores to help track items that are sold or kept in the store's inventory. The SKU is usually in the form of a string of letters or numbers. Even a small variant in a product, such as size, will be represented in a unique SKU. In recent years, many larger grocery chains have made an effort to cut the amount of products kept in stock as part of optimization programs called SKU rationalization, thus decreasing the number of SKU numbers they must track. For example, instead of carrying 32 different brands of Crest toothpaste, Walmart may choose to carry only 16.

Most SKU numbers in grocery products are contained in the Universal Product Codes (UPC) that appear somewhere on the package as a series of lines of varying widths with numbers under the lines. Look on the side or the bottom of the product for the UPC, also known as a bar code. The bar code contains information, including the SKU, that is picked up by the scanner at the check-out line.

To find an SKU on a product unique to a particular grocery store, such as bread from the bakery or fresh-sliced deli meats and cheeses, look on the store-printed label that contains the product name and description. The SKU will be a part of the bar code.

Brand-name products have a universal bar code that grocery chains often use as the SKU. For example, two separate packages of the same type, size and shape of Oreo cookies will have the same SKU. If one package is missing the SKU, look for the exact same brand and size.

Because many stores use the universal bar codes as their SKU, the code may be the same at different chains. A package of Oreo cookies at Target will likely have the same SKU as the same type and size of Oreo cookies at Walmart.

Some fruits and vegetables don't have bar codes. To find an SKU on those products, look for a sticker on the product that contains a number that a store cashier will type into a computer to find that product in the store database. If the product does not have a sticker, ask a cashier for the store's "lookup" code for that item.