AG Barr sales fizz up despite sugar tax

Irn-Bru maker AG Barr has posted a year of rising sales as it shrugged off the sugar tax and a host of other challenges.

Revenue grew by 5.6% to £279 million at the Scottish soft drinks firm, which also makes Rubicon and Tizer.

The company posted a pre-tax profit of £44.5 million for the year to January 26, down from £44.9 million. The figure takes into account a one-off pension service charge of £700,000.

Stripping out exceptional items, profits were up 2.5% to £45.2 million.

AG Barr said the results were “all the more pleasing” given the Government’s sugar levy, which has hit the entire soft drinks industry.

It also had to contend with carbon dioxide shortages during the summer heatwave, the Beast from the East snow disruption, and a number of business failures and ongoing customer credit risks.

The firm revamped Irn-Bru and other drinks ranges to reduce the sugar content ahead of the launch of the new UK soft drinks sugar tax last April.

AG Barr stopped making the original full-sugar version last January – but the move prompted a backlash among Irn-Bru loyalists.

The company incurred £1.4 million of costs as part of its ongoing sugar reduction and reformulation programme, with Irn-Bru sugar-free variants now accounting for 40% of the total brand.

Boss Roger White said: “At the outset of 2018 we set out a clear strategy and specific actions which we believed were required to deliver continued financial success during what we forecast to be a year of significant changes across our industry.

“I am pleased to report we have delivered another strong financial performance having adapted well to both the circumstances we anticipated and those which were less expected.

“It is with this backdrop in mind that I emphasise the flexibility and strength of our business model, people and brands, all of which continue to deliver consistently.”

He added that, while uncertainty across the UK economy is likely to prevail for the “foreseeable future”, the company is “fit for purpose and resilient”.