Firm behind Norwich Robinsons factory could be about to merge with makers of Scottish drink Irn Bru

PUBLISHED: 11:42 05 September 2012 | UPDATED: 08:51 06 September 2012

General views around the Robinsons soft drinks factory at Carrow Works, Norwich
Bottles on the production line

Picture: James Bass
EDP Pics © 2007    Tel: (01603) 772434

General views around the Robinsons soft drinks factory at Carrow Works, Norwich Bottles on the production line Picture: James Bass For: EDP BUSINESS EDP Pics © 2007 Tel: (01603) 772434

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2007

Britvic has confirmed it is in merger talks with Irn Bru maker A.G Barr.

What is Irn Bru and where has it come from?

A.G Barr, which is based at Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, has produced Irn-Bru from a secret recipe for more than 130 years.

Chairmanship of the company passed outside the family for the first time in 2009 when Robin Barr ended his 31-year tenure as chairman. He remains on the company’s board as a non-executive director and is one of just three people to know the formula of 32 ingredients used in the drink.

The business started in 1875 when Mr Barr’s great-grandfather Robert Barr embarked on a new direction for the family cork-cutting business by producing and selling “aerated waters”, as soft drinks were called at the time.

Andrew G Barr first began selling “Iron Brew” in 1901 and shrewd marketing quickly saw the company rise to become Scotland’s top soft drinks seller.

When Robert Barr took over the firm in 1947, he renamed the drink Irn-Bru after worries about new food labelling regulations - the drink did contain iron but was not brewed.

The current business has won praise from City analysts for its performance after increasing sales of Irn-Bru away from its historical heartland.

The drinks giant - which manufactures its Robinsons brand at its Carrow Works factory in Norwich - say the talks may, or may not, result in a share merger and discussions are at an early stage.

In July Britvic admitted it faced a £25m bill in the wake of a safety scare surrounding its Robinsons Fruit Shoot and Fruit Shoot Hydro packs, which are produced in Norwich and Chelmsford.

Britvic said in a statement today that the merger would have compelling industrial logic and represented an opportunity for both companies to enhance their industry position.

The company said that under the terms of a possible deal, Britvic shareholders would own 63pc and A.G. Barr shareholders 37pc of the enlarged group’s share capital.

The board of directors would be drawn equally from the boards of both companies. Roger White, chief executive of A.G. Barr, would become chief executive of the combined group and John Gibney, chief finance officer of Britvic, would take the chief finance officer job. Gerald Corbett, chairman of Britvic, would become chairman of the Board of the combined group, and Ronnie Hanna, chairman of A.G. Barr, would become deputy chairman. In addition, the new board would comprise six other non-executive directors, three nominated from each of Britvic and A.G. Barr.

For expert reaction to the announcement and a Irn Bru taste test in Norwich, see tomorrow’s EDP and Norwich Evening News.

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