From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Irn Bru Logo.jpg
Type Carbonated soft drink
Manufacturer A.G. Barr plc
Country of origin Scotland
Introduced 1901

Irn-Bru 32

Fiery Irn-Bru
Colour Orange, Sunset Yellow, E110
Variants Irn-Bru Sugar Free

Irn-Bru (/ˌaɪərnˈbr/ "iron brew") is a Scottish carbonated soft drink, often described as "Scotland's other national drink" (after whisky).[1][2] It is produced in Westfield, Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, by A.G. Barr of Glasgow, since moving out of their Parkhead factory in the mid-1990s, and at a second manufacturing site in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England. In addition to being sold throughout the United Kingdom, Barr's Irn-Bru is available throughout the world and can usually be purchased where there is a significant community of people from Scotland. Innovative and sometimes controversial marketing campaigns have kept it as the number one selling soft drink in Scotland, where it competes directly with global brands such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi.


Irn-Bru is known for its bright orange colour. As of 1999 it contained 0.002% of ammonium ferric citrate, sugar, 32 flavouring agents including caffeine and quinine (but not in Australia), and two controversial colourings (Sunset Yellow FCF and Ponceau 4R). On 27 January 2010, A.G. Barr agreed to a Food Standards Agency voluntary ban on these two colourings although no date has been set for their replacement.[3]

Irn-Bru was first produced in 1901, in the town of Falkirk, under the name Iron Brew.[4] In 1946, a change in laws required that the word brew be removed from the name, as the drink is not brewed. The chairman of the company came up with the idea of changing the spelling of both halves of the name, giving the Irn-Bru brand. (The "Iron Brew" name continues to be used for many versions of the drink sold by rival manufacturers).[5] 1980 saw the introduction of Low Calorie Irn-Bru: this was re-launched in 1991 as Diet Irn-Bru and again in 2011 as Irn-Bru Sugar Free. The Irn-Bru 32 energy drink variant was launched in 2006.

It has long been the most popular soft drink in Scotland, with Coca-Cola second, but recent competition between the two brands has brought their sales to roughly equal levels.[6] It is also the third best selling soft drink in the UK[citation needed], after Coca-Cola and Pepsi, outselling high-profile brands such as Fanta, Dr Pepper, Sprite and 7-Up. This success in defending its home market (a feat claimed only by Irn-Bru, Thums Up and Inca Kola) led to ongoing speculation that Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Inc. or its UK brand franchisee Britvic would attempt to buy A.G. Barr. In November 2012 AG Barr and Britvic announced a merger proposal,[7] in July 2013 the merger collapsed when terms could not be agreed.[8]

Irn-Bru's advertising slogans used to be 'Scotland's other National Drink', referring to whisky, and 'Made in Scotland from girders', a reference to the rusty colour of the drink; though the closest one can come to substantiating this claim is the 0.002% ammonium ferric citrate listed in the ingredients.

A limited edition Irn-Bru was released in autumn 2011. Packaged with a black and orange design, and with the signature man icon with an added image of a fire, Fiery Irn-Bru, had a warm, tingly feeling in the mouth once drunk. It featured the traditional Irn-Bru flavour with an aftertaste similar to ginger.

Irn-Bru is also sold in reusable 750 ml glass bottles which, like other Barr's drinks, was able to be returned to the manufacturer in exchange for a 30 pence deposit paid on purchase. This scheme was widely available in shops across Scotland and led to the colloquial term for an empty: a "glass cheque".[9][10] As a result of a 40% drop in returned bottles since the 90s, which deemed the washing and re-filling process uneconomical,[11] on 1st January 2016 Barr ceased the scheme.[9][10]


Irn-Bru and other Barr brands including Pineappleade, Cream Soda, Tizer, Red Kola, Barr Cola, and Limeade are still available in 750 ml reusable glass bottles.

  • The most popular bottle size is 500 ml.
500 ml bottle of Irn Bru
Two litre bottle of Diet Irn-Bru
500 ml Limited Edition Can

Irn-Bru and Diet Irn-Bru are available in the following sizes:

  • 150 ml can
  • 250 ml plastic bottle
  • 330 ml can
  • 330 ml glass bottle
  • 500 ml limited edition summer can (now the Big Value Can)
  • 500 ml plastic bottle
  • 600 ml plastic bottle (Russia)
  • 1 litre plastic bottle
  • 1.25 litre bottle (Australia, New Zealand, Russia, UK)
  • 2 litre plastic bottle
  • 2.25 litre plastic bottle (Russia)
  • 2.5 litre bottle (UK "Big Bru")
  • 3 litre plastic bottle
  • 355 ml glass bottle (in Canada)
  • 750 ml glass bottle
  • 5 litre Syrup containers.

In May 2007, Irn-Bru re-designed its bottles and cans.


A Leeds taxi advertising Irn-Bru outside the University of Leeds

Advertising campaigns[edit]

An early (and long running) advertising campaign was "The Adventures of Ba-Bru and Sandy" comic which ran from the 1930s to the early '70s.[12] A neon sign featuring Ba-Bru stood outside Glasgow Central railway station for many years, and was only removed in the late 1970s.[13]

Barr has a long-established gimmick associating Irn-Bru with Scottishness, stemming from the claim of it being Scotland's most popular soft drink. A tagline, "Made in Scotland from girders", was used for several years from the 1980s, usually featuring Irn-Bru drinkers becoming unusually strong, durable or magnetic.

An advertising campaign launched in 2000 featured eccentric characters and situations. One involved a grandfather (played by actor Robert Wilson) who removed his false teeth to spoil his grandson's interest in his can of Irn-Bru. A further TV advertisement featured a senior citizen in a motorised wheelchair robbing a local shopping market of a supply of Irn-Bru. Further advertising campaigns for Irn-Bru appeared in conjunction with the release of Irn-Bru 32 in 2006. This campaign consisted of a parody commercial of a popular Christmas Cartoon, The Snowman, and was effective in interesting American audiences in the Irn-Bru brand.[14]

A 2009 advertisement for the product features a group of high school pupils performing a musical number, with the refrain "It's fizzy, it's ginger, it's phenomenal!" It is a parody of High School Musical, and stars Jack Lowden.[15]

In response to the Coca Cola 'Share a Coke' campaign, Barr decided to produce thousands of limited edition 750 ml bottles of Irn-Bru with the names 'Fanny', 'Senga', 'Rab' and 'Tam' on the label, mimicking that by Coca Cola. The use of the name 'Fanny' ties in with one of Irn-Bru's controversial marketing advertisements.[16]


One of the most controversial Irn-Bru television adverts evoked 1950s entertainment. A mother plays the piano, while the father and two children deliver a song which ends with the mother singing: "...even though I used to be a man". This advertisement was broadcast in 2000, but when it was repeated in 2003, it led to seventeen complaints[17] about it being offensive to transgender people. Issue A14 of the Ofcom Advertising Complaints bulletin reports that the children's response to their mother's claim was not offensive. The advertisement was meant to be a joke about changing points of view over time. However, the scene involving the mother shaving at the end of the advertisement was deemed to be potentially offensive to transgender people, and so it was taken off the air.

In 2003, an Irn-Bru commercial which showed a midwife trying to entice a baby from its mother's womb during a difficult delivery sparked a complaint from one viewer. Some saw it as upsetting to women who had suffered miscarriages.[18]

One billboard featured a young woman in a bikini along with the slogan "I never knew four-and-a-half inches could give so much pleasure". Another featured a picture of a cow with the slogan "When I'm a burger, I want to be washed down with Irn-Bru". This billboard resulted in over 700 complaints but was cleared by advertisement watchdogs.[19] A billboard which featured a depressed goth and the slogan 'Cheer up Goth. Have an Irn Bru.' was also criticised for inciting bullying.[20]

Brand portfolio[edit]

Name Launched
Irn-Bru 1901
Irn-Bru Sugar Free formerly Diet Irn-Bru (1991–2011) 1991
Irn-Bru XS 1995
Irn-Bru 32 2006
Fiery Irn-Bru 2011[21]

Irn-Bru and others[edit]

It can be used as a mixer with alcoholic beverages—mainly vodka and whisky. Indeed, the alcopop WKD (produced by Beverage Brands) was launched as an alcoholic equivalent of Irn-Bru. Barr retaliated by launching a drink combining Irn-Bru and Bell's whisky, though this proved to be unpopular and was discontinued. A later attempt came in the form of an official Irn-Bru flavour in the Red Square line-up of vodka-based drinks; this too has been discontinued. There is an official Irn-Bru WKD flavour.

Exports and foreign markets[edit]

Irn-Bru is manufactured in five factories in Russia, and manufactured under licence in Canada, the United States, and since May 2008 in Norway. Bru and other Barr products are exported to Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece and Cyprus, as well as parts of Africa and Asia. It is available in Ireland, increasingly being stocked in BWG and ADM Londis supplied stores, as well as in supermarkets owned by Dunnes Stores and Tesco Ireland. It is also available in Malta, Belgium and, as of 2005, in Poland. It is now sold in Iceland, as of 2011. A similarly named product, using the Iron Brew spelling but bearing little resemblance to Irn-Bru in flavour, colour or packaging, is produced by Coca-Cola in South Africa.


In Australia, Irn-Bru was manufactured and distributed under licence by Occasio Australia Pty Ltd until 2009. It was available in 500 ml and 1.25 l varieties in both regular and diet. The drink enjoyed growing success in the country, with its first advertising campaign launched in Queensland in September 2007. It was initially available in major chains such as Coles and Woolworths, Caltex service stations and in many independent grocers and convenience stores, however, it was then delisted at Coles supermarkets. Because of manufacturing and bottling issues, Occasio ceased local production in late 2009. British Provender Pty Ltd[22] are now importing Irn-Bru directly from the UK, with stocks now seen on IGA and Coles shelves throughout Australia as of October 2010. Although it is imported from the UK it does not contain caffeine or quinine, so the taste is different from that sold in the UK.


Irn-Bru sold in Canada contained no caffeine until recently. In March 2010, Health Canada repealed the ban on caffeine on clear coloured soft drinks and now bottles of Irn-Bru have the label 'Now Contains caffeine' on the packaging.[23] Irn-Bru in Canada is distributed by TFB & Associates Ltd from Markham, Ontario but is packaged by A.G. Barr in Glasgow, Scotland. Irn-Bru can be found at Sobeys supermarkets.

The now-defunct McKinley/McInlay soft-drink company in Glace Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, for many years offered its own non-licensed beverage called Iron Brew. It was a brown carbonated soft-drink with a fruity cola taste. After the company stopped operations around 1990, PepsiCo continued to sell the drink locally as 'Cape Breton's Irn Bru'. The packaging consisted of plainly labelled plastic bottles (black text on a featureless white label) and a disclaimer "Not a source of Iron".

The standard Irn-Bru distributed in Canada also contains the "Not a source of iron" disclaimer on the label. The UK version of the drink (with caffeine) is commonly imported by speciality retailers, particularly in areas with large British populations.[24]


Irn-Bru started being sold at 7-Eleven. It has often appeared in the Danish supermarket 'Netto', 'Rema 1000' and 'Normal'.[citation needed] Today only a few 7-Elevens in Denmark continue distributing Irn-Bru, while most Føtex and Bilka stores now stock Irn Bru.


Imported Irn Bru cans are found throughout Finland in selected K-supermarket and K-citymarket supermarkets, in Punnitse ja Säästä stores, the Behnford's store in Helsinki and from

Hong Kong[edit]

Irn-Bru can be found in selected Wellcome supermarkets, in and around areas where the expatriate population is significant such as the Sheung Wan and Central districts.

Middle East[edit]

A.G. Barr has launched its Irn-Bru product throughout the Middle East. Found mostly in LuLu supermarkets.


Irn-Bru entered the Norwegian market in May 2008. They had to withdraw from the market again in 2009 as a result of problems with production agreements and lack of funding for proper marketing efforts, and Irn-Bru can not be bought in Norway as of February 2010.

They were believed to be sponsoring the Adeccoligaclub Mjøndalen IF in 2009. This later turned out to be fraud carried out by a third party company, and Mjøndalen IF never received any sponsorship from Irn-Bru, even though the team played the 2009 season with Irn-Bru marketing on their shirts.[25]


Irn-Bru began being sold in Russia in 1998, and by 2002 it had become their third best selling soft drink. After its original bottler went out of business, a new deal was signed for the drink to be manufactured and distributed in larger quantities by the Pepsi Bottling Group of Russia in 2002.[26] Its popularity has been attributed to the drink's apparent similarity to discontinued soviet-era soft drinks.[26] As of 2011, Irn-Bru sales in Russia were still growing.[27]

United States[edit]

Irn-Bru and Diet Irn-Bru have been formulated since 2002 by A.G. Barr plc to meet the regulations for food colouring of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Ponceau 4R, used in the UK formulation, is prohibited by the FDA. Barr uses alternative food and drink colourants manufactured by a U.S. company approved by the FDA. The product labelling also meets U.S. labelling standards on nutritional information and bar code. Compliant Irn-Bru is solely imported by Great Scot International in Charlotte, North Carolina, who supply distributors and retailers throughout the U.S. It is only supplied in 500 ml.

References in media[edit]


In the Museum of Scotland, on Chambers Street in Edinburgh, there is a range of exhibits selected by celebrities—Sir Sean Connery chose a crate of Irn-Bru.

In the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, a small refrigerator contains a 6-pack of Irn Bru in the section dedicated to Scientific Instruments and Lord Kelvin.


Scottish rock band the Fratellis featured a play on Irn-Bru's logo as one of their T-shirt designs in their 2008 tour. The band also brought Irn-Bru with them to drink during their performances.

Elvis Costello references Irn-Bru in the "St. Stephen's Day Murders," referring to a mixture of Tia Maria and "that drink made from girders".

Scottish indiepop band the Orchids reference Irn-Bru in their first single, "I've Got A Habit."

Scottish Folk-n-Roll band Scocha has a song dedicated to Irn-Bru on their album "ScattyBoo". The song is called "Irn Bru".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brooks, Libby (30 May 2007). "Alongside penicillin, tarmacadam and the bicycle, there is another Scottish invention that has genuinely rocked the world: Irn Bru.". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  2. ^ "During the years Irn-Bru has been advertised as "Scotland's other National Drink", referring to whisky.". Sky News. 27 May 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  3. ^ "AG Barr to replace colourings in Irn-Bru". just-drinks. 28 January 2010. 
  4. ^ History A.G. Barr Plc (retrieved 21 November 2012).
  5. ^ "Irn Bru bottles reach point of no return". BBC. 2015-08-19. Retrieved 2015-09-18. It had trademarked 'Irn Bru', while others sold Iron Brew 
  6. ^ "Coke takes sparkle from Irn-Bru". The Scotsman. 30 September 2003. 
  7. ^ Martin Flanagan. "AG Barr-Britvic merger could see 500 jobs axed – Management". Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  8. ^ "Britvic, A.G. Barr merger deal collapses". Reuters. 11 July 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "The end of the 'glass cheque': Irn-Bru stops bottle return scheme | Scotland". News. 2015-12-30. Retrieved 2016-01-09. 
  10. ^ a b Audrey Gillan. "Cash in your ‘glass cheques’: the end of the Irn Bru buy-back scheme is nigh | Life and style". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-01-09. 
  11. ^ "Irn Bru maker AG Barr signals end to bottle returns - BBC News". Retrieved 2016-01-09. 
  12. ^ "Timeline - A.G. BARR soft drinks". Retrieved 15 July 2015. 
  13. ^ "Ken Houston: A lack of neon leaves Glasgow a little duller". Retrieved 15 July 2015. 
  14. ^ "Irn Bru Snowman Advert". YouTube. 2006-12-01. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  15. ^ "IRN-BRU Musical ad". 2009-04-30. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  16. ^ Archibald, Ben (2013-06-19). "Fanny business: Thousands of cheeky Irn Bru bottles on sale | The Sun". Retrieved 2013-07-29. 
  17. ^ Ofcom response to complaints about Leith Agency advert for Irn-Bru, July 2004. Archived April 30, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "Irn-Bru Foetus Campaign Leaves TV Viewers Fizzing". The Scotsman. 15 June 2003. 
  19. ^ Statistics: 1998 Complaints Resolved (Public and industry) Archived December 6, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Irn Bru ad leaves bad taste". BBC News. 30 July 2003. Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  21. ^ Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith (2011-09-20). "Irn-Bru launches 'fiery' limited edition drink". Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  22. ^ "British Provender Pty Ltd". Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  23. ^ "Health Canada repeal caffeine ban". Retrieved 27 February 2012. 
  24. ^ "Irn Bru at Bramble House". Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  25. ^ "MIF utsatt for sponsorbløff". 2 June 2010. 
  26. ^ a b "Irn-Bru signs Russian deal". BBC. 2002-01-29. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  27. ^ "AG Barr profits rise as Russia gets a taste for Irn-Bru". Retrieved 2016-01-26. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]