Frequently Asked Questions

Is Chairman Robin Barr the only person who knows the recipe for IRN-BRU ?

The recipe for IRN-BRU is one of the world's closely guarded secrets. The original recipe for BARR'S IRON BREW as it was described when launched in 1901 was created by Robert Barr and his son Andrew Greig Barr. Since then the formula has been passed down from one generation of the Barr family to the next. It now rests with current Chairman Robin Barr, who was taught the secret formula for IRN-BRU by his father Robert Barr in 1960 at the then Falkirk factory. Today only 2 people know the secret formula of IRN-BRU: one is Robin Barr and the other remains, you guessed it, a secret. Neither of these 2 people travel on the same aircraft together and the formula itself is kept in a bank vault somewhere in Scotland.

Do Fizzy drinks make you fat ?

Barr Soft Drinks have consistently demonstrated a proactive and progressive commitment to health through a mixture of self-regulation, product innovation, acquisition, and following regulations. In 2007 61.4% of all soft drinks sold in the UK were low calorie and no added sugar with regular soft drinks making up the remaining 38.6% (source: Zenith International) Research from the Irish Universities Nutritional Alliance shows that calorie intake has remained constant over last 20 years. However, calorie expenditure has reduced dramatically, as a result of lifestyle changes and less physical activity. Soft drinks according to IUNA 2005 only account for 3% of children's daily calorie intake and 2% of adults." We share the view expressed by Prof. Pat Wall, co-director of the National Nutrition Surveillance Centre at UCD who said at a recent BCI conference: "Obesity is a complex and multi-factorial issue. The emerging consensus among academics and health professionals is that responsibility is shared between Government, regulators, health professionals, schools, work places, parents, carers, the food and beverage sectors and individuals. The problem is two-fold. As a nation, we are doing too little physical activity, but also eating more than our energy requirements. Both of these issues need to be addressed."  "It is in accurate to point the finger at any one factor and blow its role completely out of proportion. Soft drinks provide fun and enjoyment in moderation or as refreshments that make up a balanced lifestyle.  They also provide fluids that our bodies need, with some also providing contributions to the various vitamins that we use everyday."

Are food additives safe ?

We use additives responsibly in order to meet the expectations of the public about the quality and safety of the drinks they are consuming. No additives that we use can be classed as being harmful to our consumers.  The additives used in our soft drinks and the level of usage is carefully selected and monitored and all additives that we use have been approved as safe and in full accordance with EU rules, regulation and legislation.

Is Aspartame safe ?

All additives in our products including the use of aspartame, have been fully approved by the Food Standards Agency as being safe for use and are carefully selected and monitored. Based on the substantial foundation of science that supports the safety of aspartame, UNESDA, the Association of European Beverages Associations, which represents the beverage industry in Europe, is confident that aspartame is safe.

UNESDA have commented: 'Aspartame is an intense sweetener used in low-calorie drinks to deliver consumers the sweet taste that they want, without contributing to energy intake. As such, it is a relevant, effective and safe tool for consumers to manage their individual calorie intake in their overall diet, in function of their own individual lifestyle.'

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)  reaffirmed the safety of aspartame in May 2006. The EFSA panel of experts concluded, "there is no need to further review the safety of aspartame nor to revise the previously established Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for aspartame."  (In Europe this is 40mg/kg body weight/day; in the USA the ADI has been set by the FDA at 50mg/kg body weight/day.)  The ADI is the quantity that is scientifically recognised as safe to consume every day of one's life, applying a very wide safety margin. EFSA's confirmation that aspartame is safe is entirely consistent with the global scientific consensus. Extensive scientific research and regulatory reviews conducted by numerous national and international food safety authorities including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization as well as regulatory agencies in over 100 countries, have all reviewed aspartame and found it to be safe for use.

Aspartame is one of the most thoroughly studied food ingredients ever with over 200 studies confirming its safety. Since its introduction, a number of human clinical data have been accumulated, including post marketing surveillance, consumption studies, tolerance studies at nearly two times the ADI and clinical studies on specific populations like diabetics.  This low-calorie sweetener has been widely used for over a quarter of a century.  Currently, more than 6,000 food and drink products contain aspartame.

Is Sodium Benzoate safe ?

All ingredients used by the soft drinks industry, including Sodium Benzoate are considered as safe to use by the Food Standards Agency. Sodium Benzoate is an extremely effective preservative used to maintain the safety and quality of food and drink products. Benzoic acid is a naturally occurring acid found in fruit and spices such as cranberries, plums, cloves, and cinnamon."

What Are Natural Flavourings ?

The term 'Natural Flavourings' can only be used in the description of ingredients for a product if the flavour is derived entirely from 'ingredients produced by nature' i.e. not the work of man or interfered with by man. Other categories of flavourings used in food processing are nature identical or artificial flavours both of which, by contrast, are chemically derived and are therefore not natural.

'Natural Flavourings' are extracted or blended from 'ingredients produced by nature' by specialist flavour houses like Sensient or Danisco. We buy the flavourings we need from them to create a particular product e.g. strawberry, blackcurrant, blueberry etc. Essentially, the flavour houses extract or blend the 'natural flavours' they produce in one of two ways:

  1. From the Named Fruit. The 'natural flavour' is created from natural ingredients entirely from the named fruit * e.g. if they are producing a strawberry 'natural flavour' then the components of it are only derived from strawberries and it would be described on the label as 'Natural Strawberry Flavour'.
  2. From a number of Natural Sources. The 'natural flavour' is created from a selection of different natural sources. As an example of this a major component in all natural fruit flavours, including strawberry flavours, is Limonene which is found in Lemons and Limes * hence the descriptor has to be 'natural flavour' and cannot therefore be 'natural strawberry flavour' because it doesn't just contain components from strawberries. Flavour houses produce natural flavours in this way in order to create specific natural flavour profiles for their customers e.g. if you make soft drinks you may need a more 'juicy' tasting strawberry flavour than a preserves manufacturer who might need or more 'jammy' tasting strawberry flavour. In the same way that you can go to a DIY store and choose from many different colours of red paint, so a food manufacturer can go to a flavour house and choose from many different 'natural flavourings' of strawberry.

When were bottle deposits introduced, why and how much were they when they first started ?

Barrs started manufacturing and selling soft drinks in 1875 in Falkirk Scotland. Back then all soft drinks were sold in glass bottles and these bottles were returned by consumers to shops for manufacturers to collect. There was no deposit scheme in place at this time - the return of bottles to shops by the public was purely voluntary. However by 1905 these bottles were not being returned in sufficient numbers, so Scottish soft drinks manufacturers who all belonged to the Aerated Water Manufacturers Defence Association Ltd a sort of trade body all agreed to introduce a bottle deposit system at one half penny per bottle '....owing to the great loss and damage sustained through the non-return of bottles...'

Returnable glass bottles remained the only packaging choice for soft drinks right up to the 1950's / 1960's when cans were introduced in the UK and then a non returnable glass bottle was introduced in supermarkets in the 1970's with a 'plastishield' plastic / polystyrene coating applied to the bottle for safety.Plastic bottles came in around 1979 in supermarkets and consequently the decline of the returnable glass bottle can be tracked from this point.

Since 1905 Barrs has always sold Returnable glass bottles and have never taken then off sale. We are now one of a very small number of manufacturers to produce them and still sell approx 30,000,000 returnable bottles per year, most of them in corner shops and garages across the central belt of Scotland.

A.G.Barr p.l.c., Westfield House, 4 Mollins Road, Westfield, Cumbernauld, G68 9HD Registered in Scotland (Reg No SC5653)