Growing with purpose
in a changing world

In our annual review, we tell the story of an extraordinary year. Though a period of exceptional challenge, we have supported our members and stakeholders, while continuing to deliver 

our purpose. 


Unprecedented growth,
a new strategy and a
renewed purpose

Reflecting on my first 12 months at GS1 UK I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved in a time of considerable uncertainty and change.  

We could never have imagined the unprecedented membership growth, fuelled by the high number of start-ups and enabled by accelerated digital transformation, in the last year. The pandemic has seen significant shifts in industry dynamics and businesses had to take control of their own destiny and go direct to consumers using a multitude of sales channels. 


We have seen a staggering 26 per cent increase in new members. 82 per cent of members joining to uniquely identify their products and trade directly to consumers through online channels including their own website,

marketplaces and social

media platforms. This

transition from physical to digital has allowed us to demonstrate the importance of GS1 standards, and trusted data, in a digitally connected world. 


Our membership growth has also reflected the changing needs of UK consumers with substantial growth in sectors such as home and garden, beauty and food and drink.  

At the heart of our new three-year strategy – Growth with purpose - is our aim to sustain the growth in our membership, as the UK starts to return to normal. The new strategic plan combines internal and external expertise, with a member perspective, to deliver a sector-neutral vision for the organisation. Industry trends, and the needs of consumers to be better informed and protected, mean that our standards have never

been more relevant, whether

online, in a store or on a ward. We must clearly articulate the role we can play in bringing industry together to solve these new challenges.


We will have a four-nations approach focused on 

engaging with government 

and participating with and 

influencing imminent legislation 

such as the Medicines and Medical Devices Act (MMDA), deposit return schemes (DRS) and digital deposit return 

schemes (DDRS) to ensure our standards are at the heart of these changes.  

We’ll deliver key campaigns to bring our standards to life and to raise awareness amongst key audiences old and new. We’ll continue to speak on behalf of our members and bring industry together to solve key consumer and business challenges.

Our first example of this the Feed us the Facts campaign around Natasha’s Law. This campaign has seen us raise awareness of the lack of consumer knowledge when it comes to allergens, and ultimately ensure consumers can live in a safer, more transparent world. We also conducted an appraisal of the industry’s readiness to address the legislative changes.


The campaign clearly demonstrates our renewed purpose… Harnessing the power of standards to transform the way people work and live. 


I look forward to sharing more about it at our Annual General Meeting on 21 October.

Anne Godfrey


Where we have seen growth

Our members range from sole traders to multinationals, and are drawn from increasingly diverse industries, ranging from animals and pet care to healthcare. Over the last 12 months, our total membership has exceeded 53,000 members with net growth of 26 per cent. 


Total membership

at year end


Total new joiners


Net growth



Top sectors for new membership growth in 2020-21.

New member key trends

Ecommerce is the channel of choice for UK start-ups and our standards ensure we empower those businesses to operate efficiently and effectively. We’ve seen small businesses utilising web ecommerce platforms like Shopify to create their own online stores at pace in order to sell direct to their customers.


Joining to sell D2C


Increase in new members setting up their own ecommerce stores to sell direct


Increase in new members using social media platforms to sell direct to members

Our rapid rise in member engagement has been hugely encouraging and has demonstrated the increased relevance of our standards and services. 


By shifting to virtual training and online events, we increased member engagement through the effective use of digital channels. 

Members' stories

We have welcomed a considerable number of SMEs into our membership. In fact, our SME audience has grown exponentially, and this has provided us with a unique selection of members to profile. The better we understand them, the better we can support them.  

Our member stories are focused on key themes such as exporting, sustainability and dealing with the challenges of the pandemic. These stories also provide valuable and actionable takeaways that support other likeminded entrepreneurs and small businesses. 


Snack brand, The Savourists prove that export is a viable route to market for SMEs. In conversations with us, founder Harry Turpin detailed their exporting journey to Coop in Switzerland. The umami snack bars were Harry’s answer to an oversaturated sweet protein-bar market and took two years to develop from idea to shelf. Since launching in 2019 his products can be found in Planet Organic, Wholefoods, Sainsbury’s, Amazon and other marketplaces. In addition to discussing export Harry elaborated further on his route to market strategy. He emphasised the importance of a spread-bet strategy of 30 per cent margins across multiple channels. This minimises business risk should one channel have delays or fail. 

Harry’s business success and unique experiences have made him a valuable source of insight. He was recently invited to Number 10 to discuss international trade. Only 10 per cent of businesses export but realistically it should be a far greater volume. Harry provided key insights to the Prime Minister’s special adviser on business, Alex Hickman about what improvements the Department for International Trade (DIT) can make to further support SMEs.


Soap manufacturer, Little Danube’s journey resonated with many other new members who launched a business as a direct result of the pandemic. 


Founder Katrina Borissova was made redundant after 10 years in the pharmaceutical corporate world. While battling to find another role, she used creativity as an outlet to channel her anxiety. Having enrolled in a soap-making course she saw an opportunity to turn this into a business. This culminated in launching a sustainable brand with a lifetime commitment to environmental ethics. Her story provides many vital lessons for other entrepreneurs who have started a business from scratch. Other members can learn from the many challenging decisions and turning points she was faced with, one of which included deciding when to turn down investment. 

After setting up her business on the day Britain went into its first national lockdown, Katrina decided she would need to invest time in understanding how to get her products to market. She joined the Amazon Small Business Accelerator programme. This is where she learnt about the importance of GS1 standards and the need for Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) and barcodes in order to sell across multiple channels, meet compliance requirements and gather quantifiable data. This knowledge has contributed to her business’s enduring success. 

Our work with industry

EN globe large.jpeg

SMEs are ready to

go global but need help

to export

The message has been received loud and clear: UK SMEs want to export more and expand their businesses to reach millions of customers around the world. They are ready and willing to sell and ship to an increasingly wide range of countries. But they would like effective support in achieving these goals.  

So, with the aim of better understanding how export challenges are impacting the SME community, we partnered with Enterprise Nation to carry out industry research with 1,000 SMEs from across the UK.  

We found that there has been a seismic shift in the sector. The context has evolved from a situation where businesses were struggling to finding new, international customers, to one where the rise of direct to consumer (D2C) channels is providing access customers all over the world. 76 per cent of SMEs are willing to export or want to export more and 53 per cent are already exporting. 


However, the increase of success has led to a rise in problems surrounding logistics, with 60 per cent wanting tools to streamline duties and administration and 40 per cent already experiencing problems with slow or expensive shipping.  

To support our growing member base, we have teamed up with experts, such as Enterprise NationBolst GlobalGo to Market (GTM)Department for International Trade (DIT) and Avalara, to deliver training and advice on how export for growth.  


Feed us

the facts

As a brand, we want to bring about changes that improve businesses and society. To illustrate this, we embarked on a campaign to bring our new brand position to life.  

To create meaningful impact, we needed to identify an issue where our standards could clearly demonstrate their value in solving an important issue. 

Natasha’s Law will come into effect on 1 October 2021, and we wanted to understand how aware consumers were regarding allergens and how ready the food industry is addressing the issues head on. 


Our commissioned research revealed compelling evidence that consumers didn’t have the knowledge to protect themselves and that there were inconsistent levels of business readiness.


This perfect storm captured the attention of the media across the UK. We had support from a variety of influential voices across the industry. As a result, we achieved significant coverage in consumer and trade press, on radio and ITV news.  

One of the biggest concerns surrounding Natasha’s Law is whether businesses can accurately provide allergen information across the supply chain and into the hands of customers. This is especially true of smaller businesses whose data may be less structured and worryingly, our research showed that these businesses are the least prepared. 

It’s vital the whole food supply chain can capture and access the full range of allergen data to implement the requirements of Natasha’s Law. GS1 standards can be part of the solution that will empower consumer, and ultimately inform and protect them.  

Read the findings from the campaign


First Do No Harm –

traceability paves the way for greater patient safety

Given our dedication to enabling progress in every sector in which we operation, patient safety and traceability remain at the core of our healthcare objectives. Without efficient traceability it is impossible to deliver better and safer patient care. The Cumberlege Review provides a prime example of the consequences this lack of visibility has on patients. 
The Review has sparked a series of changes for the UK’s healthcare ecosystem – the introduction of The Medicines and Medical Devices Act, and the subsequent development of the Medical Device Information System, being two such examples. 
Both elements have driven the four devolved nations to harness the power of standards to transform patient care. This is not just isolated to their use in clinical settings, but extends to working with manufacturers, distributors and suppliers, to ensure standards are embedded from the outset. 
Unique identification is key, and this is where GS1 standards come in. They enable the unambiguous identification of every person, every product, and every place – the principles at the heart of Scan4Safety
Our year ahead will centre on expanding our work with the four nations to support traceability in healthcare, using standards to improve patient safety. 


Saving the planet,

one drinks container

at a time

The global pandemic may have temporarily taken focus away from pressing environmental challenges we all face, but that hasn't stopped manufacturers and environmental agencies innovating and developing new initiatives with the aim of building a carbon neutral industry.  

One such initiative surrounds an all-in approach to deposit return schemes (DRS) and digital deposit return schemes (DDRS), delivered consistently across the four nations. 

As the leading global provider of interoperable standards, GS1 UK is uniquely placed to offer businesses a consistent way to identify, label and categorise product and packaging attributes and ensure information can be exchanged in a manner that reduces variation and simplifies the exchange of product data – including across borders. 

That is why we’ve been working closely with our members, industry groups, scheme administrators and DEFRA to ensure that GS1 standards underpin DRS/DDRS schemes across the four nations.


Growth with purpose
GS1 UK's three-year
strategic plan

We have chosen growth with purpose as the theme for our three-year strategy. We want to deliver sustainable growth to support our members, UK plc and wider society.

During the strategy period, we have agreed who we are as an organisation, what matters to us and, most importantly, who we want to become in the future.

We now understand what our members value and need for the future. We have adapted our brand to be more active and relevant in a changing world. All of this will help us to deliver our ambition of informing and protecting people. 


Our new strategic pillars, each with their own objectives, deliverables and KPIs, will help us measure our success. They will demonstrate to members and stakeholders how, as a not-for-profit membership body, we will deliver our core purpose of harnessing the power of standards to keep people safe and well. 

Creating a buzz for the
honeypot children's charity

Fundraising during a global pandemic was always going to be difficult, but the GS1 UK charity team came up with some great ideas that delivered engagement and donations across the business.


This included running two relay marathons (one virtual, one physical), virtual baking, sweepstakes, and the “you’re on mute campaign”, which proved our meetings could generate extra donations for our corporate charity - The Honey Pot Children’s Charity


These fantastic activities combined with the enthusiasm of the team meant we raised more than £6,000 for the charity. That was enough to provide 12 children with a full year of support, something which can change their lives forever. 


Informing and protecting
people through, data,
standards and collaboration

Little did I know so soon after taking on the responsibilities as chair of GS1 UK I would also be asked to chair the Food Resilience Industry Forum, in a newly created role as DEFRA’s director of food supply.


This has given me a unique insight into how crucial industry collaboration is to solve problems that business can’t solve alone.

It was only through all component parts of the food industry collaborating that we could resolve the challenges presented by COVID-19 and subsequently Brexit, reinforcing my conviction that GS1 standards and our communities are vital to transform the way people work and live. 

I am pleased to see GS1 UK continue to successfully manage through this great period of upheaval. The change of CEO from Gary Lynch to Anne Godfrey in the latter part of 2020 has been extremely smooth,

thanks to the great efforts

and professionalism of them

both and their supporting staff.

The large growth in membership and the forced temporary reduction of many external costs has left the organisation in a position of unprecedented financial strength. This is critical because many of the systems that form the foundation of what GS1 UK does are now very old and increasingly difficult to support. 

This exceptional improvement in the financial position will give the organisation the opportunity in the next few years both to update our systems and enable them to reflect the changing membership demographics.


As we look forward it is evident, we are at a point of inflection, where trusted data and its efficient sharing is critical to the delivery of supply chain transparency. Whether the demand is

coming from consumers, legislators, media or

individual businesses the need is no longer up for


For consumers, the massive shift to online and home delivery is making our

standards to bring together the physical and digital supply chains an increasing reality to many consumers.


Supply chains are becoming increasingly democratised. There’s a wealth of delivery apps and organisations are seeing those consumers and businesses connected to more and more businesses. Increasingly no business is too small, and no order is too small to deliver to the consumer. To operate however this needs simple, clear and easy to use standards supported by good training and guidance. 

For both the media and consumers there’s a desire to know the provenance of the products. Where have the ingredients come from,

who produced them, under what conditions, how was it transported and what

impact did it have on the environment.

For legislators, the publication of Henry Dimbleby’s, government 

commissioned, National Food strategy in July highlighted challenges across the whole of the food

supply chain and has put

forward suggestions as to how they can be addressed. It proposes a National Food System data programme could be used to judge the performance of the entire industry. This would require reliable, trusted data that is seamlessly communicated up and down the supply chain and GS1 standards could play a significant role in making this recommendation a reality.  


These areas will provide focus for the year ahead and will ensure GS1 standards are at the heart of a new digital and democratised supply chain. Our standards will ensure people remain informed and protected be that with regard to the food that they eat or the treatments they receive.

Chris Tyas OBE

Chair, GS1 UK


Annual report and financial statements