A Brand is Born 1901-1953
In this period Barr wrote themselves into Scottish history with the launch in 1901 of their original recipe IRON BREW. Through the success of the brand Barr quickly became the No1 soft drinks business in Scotland.
Barr was a pioneer in these early days of marketing, promoting BARR’S IRON BREW as a brand and building the reputation of the unique beverage with testimonials from famous athletes of the day. After the Second World War, in anticipation of changing food labelling regulations, Barr re-launched IRON BREW as IRN-BRU onto the UK national stage and beyond.
IRON BREW IS LAUNCHED, 1901
Both Barr businesses, Robert Barr, Falkirk and A.G. Barr & Co.,Glasgow jointly launched their own original recipe ‘IRON BREW’ soft drink on Monday 15th April 1901. Adam Brown, a famous highland athlete from Shotts, featured in the label design.
A DEVELOPING RANGE, 1901
Barr’s IRON BREW joined an established and popular range of products including ‘Wee Macgregor Brew’, ‘Japanese Plum’ and ‘Raspberry Cider’. Many of the products were still brewed with the fermentation being cut at the point where the resultant drink was below the maximum alcohol level for sale as a non-alcoholic beverage – in those days 1.1% alcohol, now reduced to 0.5%.
ANDREW G BARR DIES SUDDENLY AGED JUST 31 YEARS OLD, 1903
Tragically, in December 1903, Andrew died within 3 weeks of contracting Glanders Virus. Following his untimely death, his younger brother the 24 year old William Snodgrass Barr (and Grandfather of current Chairman Robin Barr) took over the management control of A.G. Barr & Co. Glasgow.
RETURNABLE GLASS BOTTLE DEPOSITS INTRODUCED, 1905
The Glasgow and West of Scotland Association members introduced bottle deposits owing to ‘…the great loss and damage sustained by them through the non-return of bottles and syphons..., they have found it necessary in the interest of the Aerated Water Trade, to institute a Bottle Deposit System delivered with their goods to customers, at One Halfpenny per bottle and Two pence per Syphon…’
EARLY PRESS ADVERTISING, 1905
The company starts to advertise in local newspapers. The adverts feature testimonials from the sporting heroes of the day, Donald Dinnie All-round Champion Athlete of the World and Alex Munro Champion Caber Tosser of the World and Undisputed Champion Wrestler of Great Britain.
STANLEY STEAMER, 1918
This was the first mechanised vehicle owned by the company. It was powered by steam and needed many bags of fuel to keep the boiler well stoked.
IRON BREW LABEL CHANGE, 1922
A Cambridge rower replaced Adam Brown on the IRON BREW labels. In the original picture his right hand had held an upright oar but this was substituted by a glass of Iron Brew!
TIZER LAUNCHED, 1924
Fred Pickup launched Tizer, coined from the word ‘Appetizer’. Barrs acquired Tizer Ltd in 1972.
BA-BRU & SANDY CARTOON STRIPS, 1930
The ‘Adventures of Ba-Bru and Sandy’ first appeared in Scottish newspapers in the early 1930’s. ‘Ba-Bru’ was inspired by the character of ‘Sabu’ in Rudyard Kipling’s book ‘Sabu The Elephant Boy’. ‘Ba-Bru and Sandy’ introduced generations of Scots to Barr’s ‘Iron Brew’. It became the longest running advertising cartoon in history, lasting until the early 1970’s.
SIGNED TESTIMONIAL BY BENNY LYNCH, 1938
After the company started selling Iron Brew it engaged many sporting heroes of the day to endorse the brand. Benny Lynch, a Glaswegian, became World Flyweight Champion in 1935 and is widely regarded as one of the finest boxers that Britain has ever produced.
BARR’S IRON BREW REMOVED FROM SALE DURING WORLD WAR II, 1942 TO 1947
The Second World War quickly resulted in shortages of raw materials. The Government had little choice but to ‘Concentrate’ the soft drinks industry across the UK. It shut down many manufacturers, and those that remained were given a production number - A.G. Barr’s was ‘No.6’. Each was only allowed to produce six ‘standard drink’ recipes like lemonade. Iron Brew was not a designated ‘standard drink’ and so the brand went off sale for the remainder of the war and beyond.
IRN-BRU WAS BORN, 1947
In 1946 the industry was making preparations for the end of Government control. Concern mounted that the name IRON BREW would no longer be permitted as a result of proposed new food labelling regulations. The proposed regulations stipulated that brand names should be ‘literally true’. Barr’s ‘Iron Brew’ did contain iron but it was not brewed. As it turned out the regulations were modified when they finally went through in 1964 but the company had gone ahead with their plans to change the name and launched the phonetic respelling of the brand as IRN-BRU. The new 'IRN-BRU' trade mark was first registered on Thursday 18th July 1946 although we believe that the new 'IRN-BRU' brand name wouldn't have appeared in the market until 1947 when the 'concentration' of the soft drinks industry during the war ended.