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Asahi becomes top beer in Japan despite decline in sales.

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Asahi Breweries Ltd. recaptured Japan’s beer market leadership in 2010, garnering a 37.5 percent market share after falling to second place in the previous year, according to data released Monday by the nation’s top five beer brewers.

Total shipments of beer and beer-like drinks last year declined 2.8 percent from a year earlier to 459.17 million cases, hitting a record low for the sixth consecutive year, as the dampening effect of the aging population and weak demand among young consumers more than offset the sales bump during the scorching summer, industry observers said.

One case holds 20 633-mililiter bottles.

Asahi returned to the top of the rankings with an active sales push for its mainstay product, Super Dry.

Kirin Brewery Co., the top seller in 2009, finished a close second with a market share of 36.7 percent.

Both Asahi and Kirin saw their shipments head downward from a year earlier.

Suntory Liquors Ltd., which ranked third with a market share of 12.9 percent, and Sapporo Breweries Ltd., which came fourth with a 12.0 percent share, both boosted their sales thanks to brisk shipments of their premium brands.

Okinawa Prefecture-based Orion Breweries Ltd. brought up the rear with a 0.9 percent share.

By category, regular beer accounted for a record low of 50.2 percent of total shipments while so-called third-category beer made up 32.8 percent — an all-time high for the inexpensive beer-like drink — and “happoshu” low-malt beer 17 percent.

The beer market is becoming polarized with consumer preferences for cheaper third-category beer and premium brands growing at the expense of regular beer, one industry watcher said.

(Mainichi Japan) January 17, 2011

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