Shares rise but it's the end of an era for Irn-Bru makers

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SHARES in soft drinks maker AG Barr closed higher last night after the board hailed an "excellent start to the year" at the group's AGM in Glasgow.

Chairman Robin Barr, who stepped down yesterday after nearly 50 years with the business, said like-for-like revenues in the first 15 weeks of 2009 were "well ahead" of the same period last year, while the integration of the Rubicon fruit juice business which the group acquired last year for 60m was "going to plan".

Barr said the Cumbernauld-based firm was "on course" to deliver its business plans despite the difficult economic climate.

Shares in the maker of Irn-Bru, as well as Tizer and Strathmore mineral water, last night closed up 21p at 1,299p.

Barr, who is the last member of the group's founding family to run the business, has been chairman for 31 years. He told shareholders in Glasgow he was "delighted to leave the business in such good shape and in the hands of a capable and experienced team".

Now a publicly-listed company, Barr's soft drink business was founded in 1875 by Robert Barr. A family member has led the company for the last 135 years.

Barr, 71, will be succeeded by chartered accountant Ronnie Hanna, who has served on the company's board for five years.

Barr is widely claimed to be one of only two people who know the secret recipe for Irn Bru, "Scotland's other national drink".

Although he is stepping down as chairman, Barr insists he will continue as a non-executive director – and come in to mix Irn-Bru.

He will eventually pass on the formula to his daughter Julie, the company secretary.