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IRN-BRU vs. Coke: Ten years of takeaway data

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Written by Daniel Jones
Apr 5, 2023
clock icon6 min read

If you grew up in Scotland, you’ll have heard the tale of IRN-BRU being the nation’s soft-drink of choice.  But we’re not buying it anymore, and neither are you it seems.

When the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) - the “Sugar Tax” was introduced in 2018, soft drink manufacturers were forced to make a decision on what to do with their product lines that fell within the scope of the legislation.

The extreme ends of these decisions can essentially be boiled down to:

  1. Re-formulate the recipe of affected products, reducing sugar content below the threshold and thus avoid paying the levy.
  2. Do nothing and simply pay the levy.

Both options inevitably carried risk and uncertainty.  Re-formulating might result in consumers deciding not to buy the product - because perhaps it won’t taste as good. Doing nothing means that the price-point will likely have to increase, and consumers may choose a cheaper re-formulated product from a competitor.  There were other factors to consider at the time, such as political pressure to comply with the spirit of the legislation and its aim to improve public-health.

Manufacturers of IRN-BRU and Coke (A.G. Barr and The Coca-Cola Company respectively) took up these polarising stances.

Soft Drink with Ice Cubes
IRN-BRU and Coke have long been favourites with our customers, in-fact they’ve been the two most popular drinks on our platform since we started out over a decade ago.

Since the original announcement of SDIL, we’ve been watching this unfold with great interest.  It’s now been five years, so how has this played out from our perspective?

IRN-BRU and Coke have long been favourites with our customers, in-fact they’ve been the two most popular drinks on our platform since we started out over a decade ago.  Combined sales of IRN-BRU and Coke accounted for around 60% of all 330ml soft drink units sold on our platform in 2022.

Rolling back ten years to 2013, IRN-BRU was the most popular choice - representing roughly 31% of all soft drinks sold in the 330ml category. This trend continued without interruption until 2017 when sales of Coke and IRN-BRU converged and for the first time, Coke edged into the number one spot with a 28.45% share vs. 27.75% for IRN-BRU.

Since 2018 we’ve noticed a significant role-reversal in share of units sold between IRN-BRU and Coke. It’s fun to speculate as to whether this change is related to the re-formulation of IRN-BRU, it seems likely but we don’t know with certainty.

What we can say with certainty however, is that Coke has emerged as the new favourite amongst our customers and over the last five years the gap between these two products is much wider than it was over the preceding five year period. Our customers are buying Coke instead of IRN-BRU and last year Coke accounted for nearly 36% of 330ml units sold on the Scoffable platform vs. 21% for IRN-BRU.

Ultimately, whilst many soft drink manufacturers are moving to replace sugar with artificial sweeteners, our wider data shows that there is still strong demand for sugar based soft drinks.

While this article has focused on the two most popular soft drinks on our platform, we’re excited to bring more insights on the wider takeaway industry in future articles.

In the meantime, if you are looking for a takeaway treat give Scoffable a try - your easy-order local takeaway app.

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