My Column

Heres to Bru

  • Date: Monday 3rd April 2023
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I love celebrating the success of Scottish brands and we have some truly iconic ones to shout about.


The likes of Tunnock’s and Graham’s Family Dairy have become not only key revenue generators, but part of our national identity.


And of course there’s no Scottish brand name more iconic than Irn-Bru.


Most of us (of a certain age at least) have the brand’s ‘made in Scotland from girders’ stuck in our heads.


Debate about what the drink actually tastes like has raged for decades and Scotland is the only country with an official alternative fizzy drink favourite to Coca Cola.


Drinks manufacturer AG Barr’s Irn-Bru is a juggernaut of our country’s economy, and it’s a pivotal time for the brand, with some changes on the cards.


Recognised in 2022 as Scotland’s favourite food and drink product in a report from the Scottish Grocer, Irn-Bru sales have been on the rise in the past year, helping AG Barr report a massive rise of 15.9% in revenue, pouring out a profit of £43.5 million.


The Cumbernauld-based drinks group and its Chief Executive Roger White revealed the fantastically refreshing results reflect a period of ‘significant progress’ across the company’s strategic objectives.


It’s great to see the company continuing to thrive despite challenges such as the CO2 shortages during the pandemic and even public protests over recipe changes to reduce the sugar levels in the drink a couple of years back. At the time I remember this led to a bizarre gold rush which saw some independent retailers selling ‘red label’ Irn-Bru for a whopping £10 a can.


The company has revealed that this profit precedes an investment phase, designed to make the most of the opportunities the company has identified across all of its brands, including energy, sport and protein beverage Boost, which AG Barr acquired back in December in a deal said to be worth up to £32 million. 


The business is also planning its strategy in advance of the upcoming deposit return scheme (DRS), set to launch in August.  While there are mixed opinions deposit return, AG Barr has been pretty balanced in terms of vocalising both complementary and constructively critical opinions of the scheme, claiming it has the potential to increase the availability and quality of recycled material, as well as supporting its own long-term circular packaging goals.


One of the biggest changes on the horizon, though, follows the announcement that Robin Barr will be stepping down from the business’s board after an incredible 62 years.


As great-grandson of the company’s original founders, Barr’s insightful guidance (including serving 31 years as chairman) has helped steer the AG Barr and Irn-Bru brands towards continued success, making them the titans they are in Scotland to this day.


It’s so impressive to reflect on his career spanning more than six decades, during which we’ve all enjoyed the brand’s cheeky humour and some absolutely genius advertising which centres around being unapologetically Scottish.


Some of the most memorable include the Snowman parody, and of course the famous Fanny advert. I remember a few years ago a limited edition bottle from this campaign popped up on eBay for a crazy £1,700!  


It looks like his daughter Julie Barr will follow in Robin’s footsteps and join the board in his place

as a non-executive director, bringing her experience and skills to the table. Here’s hoping this continues the Barr family tradition that has proven to be such a (secret) recipe for success.





Scotland’s new First Minister was officially announced, I’ve been observing the reaction of our country’s prominent business leaders with great interest. 


It’s safe to say, as Humza Yousaf takes on his new role, that he has inherited a significant amount of problems.  The economy being one of the areas in most urgent need of attention. 


As a recent poll by Ipsos found half of Scots feel things in Scotland are going in the wrong direction, so Yousaf has a tough time ahead and will need to make some bold moves in order to prove himself. 


Several business groups spoke out within the first few days of the result being announced, including Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, who said she looks forward to working with the First Minister to restore business confidence and investment in the country.


Others have focused on other areas set to impact the business community such as the upcoming Deposit Return Scheme, with the usual suspects coming out either in favour of or calling for the First Minister to pause the scheme.


In his first speech, Yousaf mentioned he has a desire to make the most of the economic opportunities in the transition to net zero, so it will be interesting to see how this translates into action and how we grab these chances. 


He has a tough old time ahead of him but I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt rather than listening to my inner cynic who thinks not a huge amount will change.  I sincerely hope that Humza works closely with businesses across the country and takes every opportunity to prioritise the economy and growth.  




You might think floatation therapy is a wacky craze reserved for A-listers along with snail slime facials and cactus massages, but Glasgow’s first ever floatation spa has just landed, giving locals the chance to float in silence and darkness in a tank filled with Epsom salt water.


The Float One spa is set to open at Morris Park after couple Alex Robertson and Mhairi Caulfield received a £50,000 loan to make their business dream a reality. 


Being locked in a dark pod filled with water isn’t my idea of relaxation, but apparently the experience offers complete sensory deprivation which can alleviate physical and mental stress.


It might not be my cup of tea but I’m all for innovative new business ideas – and let’s face it, after a tough few years we could all do with some de-stressing – so I wish them all the best.




I was horrified to hear about the issues found by the Gambling Commission in its investigation into three firms owned by William Hill.  The organisations were ordered to pay a penalty of £19.2m after an investigation found they’d failed to protect consumers and had weak anti-money laundering controls. 


One gambler was able to open a new account and bet a whipping £32,500 over two days with no checks and another customer lost almost £15,000 in just 70 minutes. 


I hope a stronger stand is taken across the industry as a whole to protect those who are vulnerable and at risk of gambling related harm. Just recently the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) called on authorities to restrict gambling advertising and bring in gambling harm education in schools so let’s hope work like this can make a difference.



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