Scotland’s love affair with Irn-Bru, the nuclear-orange soft drink with a best-not-to-think-about number of additives, takes many forms. There’s its claim of being the country’s “other national drink” after whiskey. And the fact that it outsells Coca-Cola north of the border and can be used as a surprise secret ingredient in everything from classy Italian cocktails and pulled pork.
You see, part of what makes Irn-Bru so delicious is the amount of sugar that it contains—10.3 grams per 100 millilitres, to be precise. But from the end of this month, AG Barr, the company behind Irn-Bru, will begin selling a reformulated version of the drink with just 4.7 grams of sugar per 100 millilitres. The change in recipe allows AG Barr to avoid the Government’s sugar tax on soft drinks with more than 5 grams of sugar per 100 millilitres, which is set to take effect in April.
It also means that Irn-Bru as we know it is gone—and fans are shook.
A petition titled “Hands off our Irn-Bru. Please dont change the recipe by cutting sugar for sweeteners [sic]” has received over 22,000 signatures, imploring AG Barr to consider that the drink “is a national treasure in Scotland and really is part of our culture with its unique taste, branding, and marketing.” Fans have also taken to Twitter to air their dismay at the sugar content of the much loved soft drink being cut by half.
Others have opted for a more practical approach. Ryan Allan, who is heading up the “Hands off our Irn-Bru” petition, told the BBC that he has begun stockpiling bottles of the drink. Allan said: “I've got 24 glass bottles in my loft that will do me for emergencies.”
Twitter user @thenotoriousTMG also tweeted a photo of piles of Irn-Bru cans on a supermarket checkout, with the caption "beat the sugar tax."
Despite the outrage of Allan and many others, AG Barr is confident that the new, less sugary Irn-Bru will be a worthy substitute. A spokesperson also told the BBC: “The vast majority of our drinkers want less sugar in their Irn-Bru so that's what we're now offering. We know that our loyal drinkers love Irn-Bru for its unique great taste and we've worked hard to deliver this. We ran lots of taste tests that showed most people can't tell the difference—nine out of ten regular Irn-Bru drinkers told us we had a good or excellent taste match.”
Let's hope it still works with the pulled pork.