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Major firms boost efforts to up beerlike beverage sales

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo

A brand of beerlike beverages is seen at a supermarket in Tokyo.

Jiji PressTOKYO (Jiji Press) — Four major Japanese brewers are aiming to win customers this year by promoting “third-segment” beerlike beverages, which have little or no malt content and therefore are priced lower than regular beer.

The companies are redoubling efforts to boost sales, as Japan’s consumption tax rate is set to be raised to 10 percent from 8 percent in October and the country’s beer and quasi-beer market continues shrinking partly reflecting falling demand from young consumers.

Of the four players, Sapporo Breweries Ltd. estimates sales of its beer, “happoshu” law-malt quasi-beer and third-segment beverages this year at 44.5 million cases, down 0.3 percent from 2018.

The other three project growth, with sales seen up 2.2 percent at 150.5 million cases at Asahi Breweries Ltd., 2.0 percent at 137.8 million cases at Kirin Brewery Co. and 3.0 percent at 64.6 million cases at Suntory Beer Ltd.

Each case contains the equivalent of 20 633-milliliter bottles.

Suntory does not have happoshu on its product lineup.

Kirin will revamp Hon Kirin, a blockbuster third-segment product released in March 2018, later this month.

The move comes as part of the firm’s efforts to keep the popularity of existing products through the renewals of their flavors and package designs, after many new products released by the company in recent years failed to sell well, according to Kirin President and Chief Executive Officer Takayuki Fuse.

Asahi will launch a new third-segment beverage, Asahi Gokujo Kireaji, on Jan. 29, after its products in the category fared poorly last year in the face of Hon Kirin’s brisk performance.

The new product, made with the company’s original brewing technique, offers a beerlike sensation, Asahi President Shinichi Hirano said.

Suntory and Sapporo also plan to launch new third-segment products to attract budget-minded consumers.Speech

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