From Academic Kids

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Irn-Bru is the most popular caffeinated soft drink in Scotland. It is made by A.G. Barr plc, of Glasgow. Barr's Irn-Bru is available in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Russia, Canada, and throughout much of Europe. Its advertising slogan used to be "Made in Scotland from girders", though the closest one can come to substantiating this claim is the 0.002% ammonium ferric(III) citrate listed in the ingredients. It has long been the most popular soft drink in Scotland, outselling even Coca-Cola, but recent fierce competition between the two brands has brought their sales to roughly equal levels [1] ( This success in defending its home market (a feat claimed only by Irn-Bru and Peru's Inca Kola) has led to ongoing speculation that either Coke or arch-rivals Pepsico would attempt to buy A.G.Barr [2] (


The drink

Irn-Bru is most famous for its eccentric bright orange colour, making it easily recognisable even when not in its packaging. The 'Iron-Brew' produced by other manufacturers is a similar shade, but merely approximates Irn-Bru in taste. The formula for Irn-Bru is a closely guarded secret, known only by two of Barr's board members.

Bru is widely reputed to be an excellent cure for hangovers. This claim has some foundation in truth — all caffeinated drinks will soothe headaches to an extent, and sugary drinks will replace lost fluids and sugars.

Some believe that it makes an excellent mixer with alcoholic beverages — mainly vodka and scotch whisky. Indeed, the popular British alcopop WKD was originally launched as an alcoholic version of Irn-Bru. Barr retaliated by launching a drink combining Irn-Bru and Bell's whisky, though this proved to be somewhat unpopular and was quickly 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.

Packaging and marketing

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Diet Irn-Bru

Irn-Bru is available in both canned and bottled form. Many Bru aficionados are known to prefer the drink from chilled, glass bottles, rather than cans or plastic containers. The reported difference in taste may be due to mild contamination from plasticisers, or in the difference in water used in different manufacturing plants.

Irn-Bru and other Barr brands including Tizer, Red Kola, Barr Cola, and Limeade are still available in refundable glass bottles. The empty bottles can be returned to any shop which sells them, and theoretically exchanged for the deposit of 20 pence. Many retailers, however, will only offer store credit.

Irn-Bru's advertising campaigns have always been very different to those of other commercial soft drinks. Perhaps the best-remembered are the long running series of television and billboard adverts in black-and-white, including the billboard with the grim reaper saying "Don't be scared. You'll still get Irn-Bru on the other side." and the supposed-advert for a cleaning product called "Jef", which consists of a small boy in a box, who sucks Irn-Bru stains out of clothes.


The drink was first produced in 1901 under the name Iron-Brew. During World War II the British Government reined in production of 'non-essential' products, causing Iron-Brew to vanish from retailers' shelves until 1946. Around this time there was a move to tighten up legislation on product labelling, in order to make it factually descriptive. In 1946 Barr registered the new name 'Irn-Bru' for their product. It is unknown whether this was a move to circumvent the labelling laws, as other soft drink manufacturers in Scotland (such as Hays or Sangs), produce their own versions of Iron-Brew and keep the original spelling to this day.

In 1972 Barr acquired Tizer Ltd and began producing Irn-Bru at this company's plant in Atherton, near Manchester. This perhaps explains the drink's extraordinary popularity in the northwest region of England, compared with other areas (where it does not sell so well, despite heavy marketing).

When McDonald's restaurants first opened for business in Glasgow they did not serve Irn-Bru. This was seen as an insult by some Scots, and a campaign to correct this oversight was launched. After many of their restaurants were picketed, McDonalds relented and began to stock Irn-Bru alongside their other soft drinks.

Exports and foreign markets

Irn-Bru is currently manufactured in five factories in Russia, and is also manufactured under licence in Canada and Australia. Bru and various other Barr products are exported to Spain, The Netherlands, Germany, Greece, and Cyprus, as well as parts of Africa and Asia.

The legal status of Irn-Bru in America is unclear. Several American companies import Irn-Bru, yet it is currently listed as a banned substance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA website ( lists Irn-Bru and Diet Irn-Bru as containing two banned colourings: Sunset Yellow FCF and Ponceau 4R.

Irn-Bru sold in Canada contains no caffeine, as only cola drinks are permitted to contain caffeine. The taste is noticeably different, and the restorative effect is almost nil.

Irn-Bru Mythology

There is an urban legend, oft heard in Scotland when discussing the drink, that states variously that Irn-Bru is more popular in Russia than it is in Scotland, or that it is more popular than Coca-Cola in Russia. This is untrue. Barr's first venture in Russia, with a Russian company backed by American venture capitalists, failed in August 2001. A second attempt at cracking the Russian market began in June 2002, backed by the Pepsi Bottling Group of Russia. Robin Barr, AG Barr chairman, said of the legend "Maybe I could sit here and hope that it [was more popular than Coke], but Coke was introduced into the Russian marketplace shortly after 1990, so they've been in business for some 12 years now, whereas we only started franchising Irn-Bru in Russia towards the end of 1998."

External links


Caps off to Irn-Bru for Russian revelation ( (Jun 17, 2002). "The Edinburgh Evening News".


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