AG Barr tests Irn-Bru in New York

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AG Barr, the maker of Irn-Bru and other soft drinks, yesterday said that its entry into the US market was at least a year off.

Reporting full-year results, Robin Barr, the chairman, said that trials of Irn-Bru under way in New York were yielding positive feedback but the company could not attack the market until it had an agreement with a local bottling operation.

AG Barr, which is based in Scotland and dates back to 1830, has received enormous publicity for the overseas sales of Irn-Bru, especially in Russia.

However, Mr Barr, one of only two people who know the recipe for the fizzy drink, saidthe company's main focus was on conquering English taste buds.

"The only thing that is going to make us a big manufacturer is gains south of the border. The international business is a small, though potentially very interesting, part of our business.

In Scotland, Irn-Bru runs neck and neck with Coca-Cola,each with 25 per cent of the market. But in England it has just 1 per cent of the market.

For the year to 29 January, English sales grew 16 per cent. Group turnover was up 3 per cent to £110.0m and pre-tax profits edged ahead to £12.1m, from £12.0m. The company said that it was held back by increasingly large marketing spend in England and a poor summer in Scotland last year.

Also reporting yesterday was JN Nichols, makers of the Vimto soft drink, which said that sales were helped by the good summer weather - in England. The company reported pre-tax profit of £8.7m for the year 31 December, up from £8.1m, on sales up 10.5 per cent at £80.7m.