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The official Irn-Bru logo
Type Carbonated soft drink
Manufacturer A.G. Barr plc
Country of origin  Scotland
Introduced 1901
Colour Orange
Variants Diet Irn-Bru
Irn-Bru 32
Irn-Bru Chew Bar
Related products Coca-Cola

Irn-bru (pronounced iron brew, /ˈaɪ.ərn ˈbruː/) is a popular carbonated soft drink produced in Cumbernauld, Scotland where it has been made by A.G. Barr of Glasgow since moving out of their original Dennistoun factory in the mid 90s and at a second manufacturing site in Mansfield, England. In addition to being sold throughout the United Kingdom, Barr's Irn-Bru is also available in many key markets throughout the world and can usually be purchased where there is a significant community of people from its native Scotland. Innovative and sometimes controversial marketing campaigns have consistently kept it as one of the best-selling soft drinks in Scotland where it competes directly with massive global brands such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi.



Irn-Bru is famous for its bright orange colour. As of 1999 it contained 0.002% of ammonium ferric citrate, sugar, 32 flavouring agents (including caffeine—though caffeine is not listed as an ingredient on the Australian labelling—and quinine) and two controversial colourings (E110, E124). On 27 January 2010, AG Barr agreed to a Food Standards Agency voluntary ban on these two colourants, though have not set a date for when they will be replaced.[1] The beverage is advertised as having a slight citrus flavour, but many have differing opinions of the exact taste of Irn-Bru.

Irn-Bru was first produced in 1901, in the town of Falkirk, under the name Strachan's brew. In 1946, a change in laws required that the word "brew" be removed from the name, as the drink is not technically brewed. The chairman of the company came up with the idea of changing both halves of the name to a phonetic spelling, giving the current Irn-Bru brand. 1980 saw the introduction of Low Calorie Irn-Bru; this was re-launched in 1991 as Diet Irn-Bru and the Irn-Bru 32 energy drink variant was launched in 2006.

It has long been the second most popular soft drink in Scotland, second only Coca-Cola, but recent fierce competition between the two brands has brought their sales to roughly equal levels.[2] It is also the third best selling soft drink in the UK, 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), Brazil's Guaraná Antarctica,[citation needed] Ireland's Club Orange,[citation needed] South Australia's Farmers Union Iced Coffee,[citation needed] Peru's Inca Kola,[citation needed] Malta's Kinnie[citation needed] and Sweden's Julmust[citation needed]) has led to ongoing speculation that Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Inc. or its UK brand franchisee Britvic would attempt to buy A.G. Barr. Irn-Bru has a secret recipe where only one man knows what it is. This recipe is worth millions of pounds, Mrs barr told that man (most probably her son) not to tell anyone one what the recipe is as she wants the drink to stay scottish and doesn't want any other companies knowing what the recipe is and thus making the drink less tasteful.

Irn-Bru's advertising slogans used to be "Scotland's other National Drink", referring to whisky, and "Bru'd in Scotland from girders", though the closest one can come to substantiating this claim is the 0.002% ammonium ferric citrate listed in the ingredients.

The ingredients in Irn-Bru are a closely guarded secret, and the recipe is known only to Robin Barr, the Chairman, and one unnamed person (who are not allowed to travel on the same plane together). A copy of the recipe is kept in a bank vault in Switzerland[3]. Robin Barr himself mixes the essences of the drink in a sealed room at their headquarters in Cumbernauld once a month. Once Robin Barr steps down as Chairman, he will continue to be the company mixer, but will eventually pass on the recipe to his daughter (and company secretary) Julie.[4]


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 empty bottles can be returned to the manufacturer via any retailer which sells them, and can usually be exchanged for the deposit (30 pence deposit[5]). In areas of Scotland these are known as "Gless Cheques", "Gingies", "hectors", "jiggy bottles", "jangl'rs" or "Rammies".[citation needed]

Irn Bru
2 l Bottle of Diet Irn-Bru
In 2009 Barr celebrated their 108th year and produced 5,000,000 limited edition cans using a vintage design from 1947. This was also in correspondence with the Homecoming Scotland 2009.

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

  • 150 ml can
  • 250 ml plastic bottle
  • 330 ml can
  • 500 ml plastic bottle
  • 600 ml plastic bottle (Russia)
  • 1 l plastic bottle
  • 1.25 l bottle (Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Scotland)
  • 2 l plastic bottle
  • 3 l plastic bottle
  • 355 ml glass bottle (in Canada)
  • 750 ml glass bottle
  • 5 litre Syrup containers.
  • In May 2007, Irn-Bru underwent a re-design of its bottles and cans.



Advertising Campaigns

An early (and long running) advertising campaign was "The Adventures of Ba-Bru and Sandy" comic. A neon sign featuring Ba-Bru stood outside Glasgow Central railway station for many years, and was only removed in the late 1980s.

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 extremely effective in interesting American audiences in the Irn-Bru brand.[1]

The most recent advertisement for the product features a group of high school students performing a musical number, with the refrain "It's fizzy, It's ginger, It's phenomenal!". It is suggested to be a parody of musicals such as High School Musical.


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 originally aired in 2000, but when it was re-aired in 2003, it received seventeen complaints[6] from people who claimed it was offensive to transsexuals. Issue A14 of the Ofcom Advertising Complaints bulletin reports that the children's response to their mother's claim was not in fact 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 transsexuals, 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. Many saw it as upsetting to women who had suffered miscarriages.[7]

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 received over 700 complaints but was cleared by advertisement watchdogs.[8] A billboard which featured a depressed goth and the slogan "Cheer up Goth. Have an Irn Bru." was also criticised for inciting bullying.[9]

Brand portfolio

Name Launched
Irn Bru 32 2006
Diet Irn Bru 1991
Irn Bru 1901

Cultural influence

Irn-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.

Detective Inspector John Rebus, the main character in Ian Rankin's Rebus series, is often described buying an Irn-Bru for its hangover benefits after one of his all-too-frequent binges.

Irn Bru & Others

It is often used as a mixer with alcoholic beverages—mainly vodka and whisky. Indeed, the alcopop WKD (produced by Beverage Brands) was originally 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 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. There is now an official Irn-Bru WKD flavour.


In the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh there are a range of exhibits, selected by celebrities - Sean Connery chose a crate of Irn Bru.

Bands & Irn Bru

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.

Exports and foreign markets

Russian Irn-Bru

Irn-Bru is currently manufactured in five factories in Russia, and is also manufactured under licence in Canada, South Africa, America, and since May 2008 in Norway. Bru and various other Barr products are exported to Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, and Cyprus, as well as parts of Africa and Asia. It is available sporadically in Ireland, Malta, Belgium and, as of 2005, in Poland.


In Australia, IRN-BRU was manufactured and distributed under licence by Occasio Australia Pty Ltd[10] until 2009. It is available in 500mL and 1.25L varieties in both regular and diet. The drink is enjoying growing success in the country, with its first advertising campaign launched in Queensland in September 2007. It is available in major chains Woolworths, Caltex service stations and in many independent grocers and convenience stores. It is, however, no longer stocked at Coles supermarkets and many convenience stores that once stocked it report that supply suddenly stopped without reason.[citation needed] Due to manufacturing and bottling issues, from 2010 Occasio will, instead, be importing IRN-BRU directly from the UK and local manufacture will cease.


Irn-Bru sold in Canada contains no caffeine, as until recently only dark coloured drinks were permitted to contain caffeine. As a result of this and the omission of quinine the taste is noticeably different, and the restorative effect is almost nil. It is also produced under licence, without caffeine, in Australia.

The now-defunct McKinley/McInlay soft-drink company in 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 ca. 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". As of 2006 this product seems to be very difficult to find, even locally, and may have been phased out.

The standard Irn Bru distributed in Canada also contains the "Not a source of iron" disclaimer on the label.


Sunset Yellow FCF is banned in Finland, although Irn-Bru can still be purchased in certain Finnish shops specialising in imported goods.


Greek versions of the popular drink are almost exactly the same as the UK products. The only slight difference being the can labelling which meets Greek and EU requirements.

Middle East

A.G. Barr has launched its Irn-Bru product throughout the Middle East. The Jeffrey International Group have been appointed as the distribution and marketing partner[11]. The Middle Eastern market is a huge potential market for soft drinks due to widespread prohibition[citation needed] and it is hoped that Irn-Bru will be an immediate success in this market. The Irn-Bru is being bottled locally. A unique home delivery service is also available in the UAE through Earlybird, a company specialising in home delivery of soft drinks in the region. IRN-BRU is now available in all retail outlets in the UAE. Spinneys, Lulu and Co Operatives all stock the product. They no longer sell it in Dubai.

New Zealand

In New Zealand Irn-Bru can be found in UK import shops. It is now also available in some 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 currently not be bought in Norway (as of February 2010). In Norway they also sponsored the Adeccoligaclub Mjøndalen IF in 2009.


In Pakistan Irn-Bru can be found in many import and local shops and supermarkets and various western import shops. It seems that after the increasing popularity of Irn-Bru there is a greater demand for it in many Pakistani cities.


In Portugal Irn-Bru can be found in both local supermarkets and various British Import shops. It seems that after the increasing popularity of Irn-Bru in these British stores the local supermarkets, such as Ali Super and various others, have attempted to capitalise on the success.


The product has been licensed to be made in Spain, where the colour of the can is brighter.


Irn-Bru and Diet Irn-Bru have been specially formulated since 2002 by A.G. Barr plc to meet the required regulations for permissible food colouring imposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Ponceau 4R used in the UK formulation is prohibited by FDA. Barr's uses alternative food & drink colourants manufactured by a US Company approved by the FDA. The product labelling also meets US labelling standards on nutritional information and bar code etc. Compliant Irn-Bru is solely imported by Great Scot International, Charlotte NC who supplies distributors and retailers throughout the US. It is only supplied in 16.9 fl.oz.


  • Davidson, Alan. Oxford Companion to Food (1999), "Irn-Bru", p. 407.

External links

Simple English


Irn-Bru is a carbonated drink made by Barrs in Scotland, United Kingdom. It was invented in Glasgow in 1901. It is a bright orange colour, and is nicknamed "Scotland's other national drink" - A reference to Whisky.


The recipe remains a secret today, with competing drinks trying to make their own copy of Irn-Bru, with little success.[1]

One notable advertising slogan was "Made in Scotland from Girders". Although not made from girders, Irn-Bru does actually contain iron: it has an ammonium ferric citrate content of 0.002%.[1]

In 1999, Irn Bru was included in the book Oxford Companion to Food along with caviar, quail and smoked salmon as one of the world's great foods. The drink's inclusion was because it is "important for its symbolic value as well as its refreshing qualities".[1]


Irn-Bru is a sponsor of the Scottish Football League. It currently sponsors the Scottish First Division, Scottish Second Division and the Scottish Third Division.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "100 years on the Bru". BBC News. 5 May 2001. 
  2. BBC News SFL ends search for new sponsor 20 July 2007


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