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Strengthening Irn Bru's girders

Douglas Fraser | 16:45 UK time, Monday, 28 March 2011

As a fast-moving consumer good, Irn Bru has kept up an impressive pace through the downturn.

Owners AG Barr, based in Cumbernauld, say such products benefit from people treating themselves at the supermarket checkout when more expensive pleasures challenge stretched budgets. It's also down to famously savvy marketing.

Full-year figures, out today, show profits for last year are up 13% to nearly £32m.

The whole soft drinks market had a pretty good 2010, according to marketing firm Neilson - up by 7% in value, and 3% in volume.

AG Barr's portfolio of brands didn't quite match that pace of growth.

It did well in still drinks, but Irn Bru's growth failed to match the previous years.

Last year, revenue was up 4%, following growth of 5% the year before and 8% in 2008.

It was helped by a promotion with 250,000 Irn Bru beach towels for Scottish customers.

Its marketing has always been strong on irony.

Fledgling brands Taut, Vitsmart and Findlays (no, I hadn't heard of them either) are getting less attention, while the core brands grow.

And the strategy of pushing into the north of England is working.

Irn Bru revenue there is up 10%, helped by rugby league promotions.

Management focus is to remain there, with particular strengths in Yorkshire, Lancashire and the north-east.

There doesn't seem to be any punishment of the company for closing its Nottinghamshire plant.

Cricket pitch

Russian demand for Irn Bru bombed with the oil and economic downturn there.

The company had got in to the country opportunistically, beating Coca-Cola when its market opened 20 years ago.

But post-slump, sales are coming back, up 10% last year, and with total exports up 26%.

While rugby league sells in the north of England, cricket sells to ethnic minorities.

So Barr's is using cricket to back up its 2008 acquisition of Rubicon fruit drinks - a premium product it describes in its "exotics" range, which already had marketing roots in England's ethnic minorities.

Rubicon sales grew 22% last year, and they have nearly doubled since AG Barr bought it.

The clouds on the horizon from the Cumbernauld head office and bottling plant are in raw material costs.

Plastic bottles are getting much more expensive, and so is the energy required to make them.

Investment in more efficient equipment is helping offset that, and it has helped to hand Eddie Stobart the role of warehousing and shifting goods to market.

But costs weighs on companies with price-sensitive products like this.

That energy bill should be helped when its Cumbernauld wind turbines are operational.

Reassuringly, unlike Irn Bru, they're not made from girders.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    #1? Confused I was....Anyways Yes Scotland still has some oil, loads of whisky and rip off tourisim industry, but I forgot all about oor ither national drink irn bru! My 2 children are banned from this or any of this companies products, the shocking state of children's dental health in this country is appalling. It's a constant battle to ensure they don't suffer the same as their parents. Certainly nither have any fillings whereas the opposite was true for Mum/Dad at similar ages. Companies aka Barrs certainly know their market well and readily exploit it.......they have very good bed fellows hailing from the adult drinks industry....what a nation!

  • Comment number 3.

    What's the running total of minor / major compnaies that have either stalled / cancelled sizable developments in Scotland owing to new punitive UK tax measures introduced via Mr Osborne! This blogg offers a dual purpose owing to bleather wae the ither guy being closed prematurely, simply because these tax measures source was via the CONDEMS, so I'm still forever hopeful come MAY we'll see the CONDEMS poll less than the monster raving whatever bunch..........


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