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Irn Bru Logo.jpg
The former Irn-Bru Logo
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
  • Irn-Bru sugar free
  • Irn-Bru XTRA

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 was set for their replacement.[3] However, after lobbying by First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond, a proposed restriction of Sunset Yellow to 10 mg was eased to 20 mg in 2011 — the same amount present in Irn Bru.[4] As of May 2017, Irn-Bru still contains these colourings.[5]

Irn-Bru was first produced in 1901, in the town of Falkirk, under the name Iron Brew.[6] 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.)[7] 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 competition between the two brands has brought their sales to roughly equal levels.[8] 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, Inca Kola and Thums Up; Thums Up sold out to Coca-Cola in 1993, and Inka Kola owners Corporación Lindley S.A. entered into a joint venture with Coca-Cola in 1999, giving up all rights to the name outside Peru) 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,[9] in July 2013 the merger collapsed when terms could not be agreed.[10]

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 was also sold in reusable 750 ml glass bottles which, like other Barr's drinks, were able to be returned to the manufacturer in exchange for a 30 pence (previously 20p) 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".[11][12] As a result of a 40% drop in returned bottles since the 90s Barr deemed the washing and re-filling process uneconomical,[13] and on 1 January 2016 ceased the scheme.[11][12]


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 plastic bottle size is 500 ml.
500 ml bottle of Irn-Bru
Old small bottle of Irn-Bru
2 litre bottle of Diet Irn-Bru
500 ml can (formerly limited edition summer 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 Value Can (formerly the big summer 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, A.G Barr re-designed the Irn-Bru Can and Bottle Logos.

In April 2016, A.G Barr released the redesigned Irn-Bru Can and Bottle Logos.


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.[14] A neon sign featuring Ba-Bru stood outside Glasgow Central railway station for many years, and was only removed in the late 1970s.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18]


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[19] about it being offensive to members of the transgender community. 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 fifty complaints. Some saw it as upsetting to women who had suffered miscarriages.[20]

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.[21] A billboard which featured a depressed goth and the slogan "Cheer up Goth. Have an Irn Bru." was also criticised for inciting bullying.[22]

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[23]
Irn-Bru XTRA 2016

McCowan's also produced Irn-Bru Bars, chewy, fizzy, bright orange confectionery bars which taste very strongly of Irn-Bru, though production ended in late 2005. Irn-Bru sorbet is available in some speciality ice cream shops in Scotland.

Irn-Bru and others[edit]

It can be used as a mixer with alcoholic beverages, mainly vodka and whisky. The alcopop WKD was launched as an alcoholic equivalent of Irn-Bru. Barr retaliated by launching a drink combining Irn-Bru and Bell's whisky, although 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 the Republic of Ireland, increasingly being stocked in BWG and ADM Londis supplied stores, as well as in supermarkets owned by Dunnes Stores and Tesco Ireland. In Ireland generally, the drink mainly sells in Ulster, chiefly in Northern Ireland and County Donegal. 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 litre in both standard 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. It was then delisted at Coles supermarkets. Because of manufacturing and bottling issues, Occasio ceased local production in late 2009. It is now imported direct from the UK.[24]


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.[25] 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 McKinlay 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.

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.[26]


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 some K-supermarket and K-citymarket supermarkets and other shops.

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.

New Zealand[edit]

Irn-bru is commonly available nationwide from supermarkets as cans and 1.25 litre plastic bottles. It is bottled by Oasis, the same company that bottles Coca-Cola. Imported Irn-bru from Scotland is available from speciality stores.


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 marketing.

They were believed to be sponsoring the Norwegian First Division club 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 logo on their shirts.[27]


Irn-Bru began being sold in Russia in 1997, 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.[28] Its popularity has been attributed to the drink's apparent similarity to discontinued Soviet-era soft drinks.[28] As of 2011, Irn-Bru sales in Russia were still growing.[29]

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 supplies 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".

Scottish Electro-Metal band Metaltech have referenced Irn Bru throughout the years, with The Insidious Doktor Mayhem drinking from bottles of Irn Bru marked with the band's own variant of the logo, and a song about the drink played at most gigs, called "Phenomenal" as well as the bands strong use of orange as a colour and branding.

English Indie-Punk band Martha reference Irn-Bru in their song "Curly & Raquel".


In DC Comics' Doom Patrol Vol 2 #42 (March 1991), Irn-Bru is referenced as one of the products stocked in one of the houses on Danny the Street.

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. ^ Bolger, Andrew (9 September 2011). "EU reprieve for Scottish soft drink Irn-Bru". Financial Times. Retrieved 5 May 2017. 
  5. ^ "The Guilty Suspects". Irn-Bru. AG Barr. Archived from the original on 5 May 2017. 
  6. ^ History Archived 1 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine. A.G. Barr Plc (retrieved 21 November 2012).
  7. ^ "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 
  8. ^ "Coke takes sparkle from Irn-Bru". The Scotsman. 30 September 2003. 
  9. ^ Flanagan, Martin. "AG Barr-Britvic merger could see 500 jobs axed – Management". Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  10. ^ "Britvic, A.G. Barr merger deal collapses". Reuters. 11 July 2013. 
  11. ^ a b "The end of the 'glass cheque': Irn-Bru stops bottle return scheme | Scotland". News. 2015-12-30. Retrieved 2016-01-09. 
  12. ^ a b Gillan, Audrey. "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. 
  13. ^ "Irn Bru maker AG Barr signals end to bottle returns - BBC News". Retrieved 2016-01-09. 
  14. ^ "Timeline - A.G. BARR soft drinks". Retrieved 15 July 2015. 
  15. ^ "Ken Houston: A lack of neon leaves Glasgow a little duller". Retrieved 15 July 2015. 
  16. ^ "Irn Bru Snowman Advert". YouTube. 2006-12-01. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  17. ^ "IRN-BRU Musical ad". 2009-04-30. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  18. ^ Archibald, Ben (2013-06-19). "Fanny business: Thousands of cheeky Irn Bru bottles on sale | The Sun". Retrieved 2013-07-29. 
  19. ^ Ofcom response to complaints about Leith Agency advert for Irn-Bru, July 2004. Archived 14 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ "Irn-Bru Foetus Campaign Leaves TV Viewers Fizzing". The Scotsman. 15 June 2003. 
  21. ^ Statistics: 1998 Complaints Resolved (Public and industry) Archived 6 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ "Irn Bru ad leaves bad taste". BBC News. 30 July 2003. Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  23. ^ Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith (2011-09-20). "Irn-Bru launches 'fiery' limited edition drink". Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  24. ^ "British Provender Pty Ltd". Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  25. ^ "Health Canada repeal caffeine ban". Retrieved 27 February 2012. 
  26. ^ "Irn Bru at Bramble House". Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  27. ^ "MIF utsatt for sponsorbløff". 2 June 2010. 
  28. ^ a b "Irn-Bru signs Russian deal". BBC. 2002-01-29. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  29. ^ "AG Barr profits rise as Russia gets a taste for Irn-Bru". Retrieved 2016-01-26. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]