AG Barr plans to reduce sugar in the soft drink from 10.3g per 100ml to 5g – the equivalent of a 74-calorie reduction per 330ml can.
The Cumbernauld-based manufacturer, which produces the likes of Tizer, Rubicon and Strathmore, claimed the sugar cut would not affect the taste of the product.
It said 90% of its portfolio (by volume) would contain less than 5g of total sugar per 100ml by autumn 2017.
The move comes ahead of the government’s soft drinks levy, due to be introduced in April 2018.
Over 5g of sugar
The levy currently has a starting point of over 5g of sugar per 100ml. It is expected to provide £415M for schools to promote healthier lifestyles in 2018–19, education secretary Justine Greening said on Tuesday (February 28).
Further details of the government’s plans for the levy are anticipated later this month.
Consumers were increasingly concerned about sugar, and most wanted to see lower levels in their soft drinks, AG Barr said. However, taste was also important, it added.
“Evidence shows that consumers want to reduce their sugar intake while still enjoying great tasting drinks. We have responded, and our announcement today lets them know how we’re delivering what they want,” said AG Barr chief executive Roger White.
“Irn-Bru will remain a sugary drink. We’ve achieved a really good match, with less sugar, that tastes great.
“Our focus has been, and always will be, on making great-tasting products for people, today and for future generations.”
Sugar Free variant
Irn-Bru is also available in a Sugar Free variant, while Irn-Bru Xtra – which is also sugar free – is claimed to offer extra taste.
In a separate development, combined UK sales of Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar are expected to match the traditional Coca-Cola variety by 2018.
“We think we will be the very first country in the world to have 50% Coke, and 50% Diet Coke/Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. We are getting very close to that point already,” Simon Harrison, GB marketing director at Coca-Cola European Partners, told a trade press briefing on Wednesday (March 1).
“We’ve got Zero Sugar to taste as close to the 130-year-old Coca-Cola recipe as we can. It tastes fantastic.
“As a result, sales have accelerated and have now broken the £100M barrier. It is the fastest-growing cola in the UK,” Harrison added.