Slow economy hurts Japanese brewers

Sales of cheaper low-malt beer surge

July 10, 1999 - Japanese brewers blame the economy for slow beer sales, which may also explain that while overall beer shipments are down production of cheaper low-malt beer is booming.


Shipments of Japan's top five producers fell 7.6% year-to-year in the first six months of 1999. However, shipments of low-malt beer, which costs less because it is taxed at a lower rate, were up 59%. For instance, Kirin Brewery said its beer shipments in the half year fell 13%, but that low-malt beer shipments more than doubled from a year ago.

Top Japanese beer producer Asahi Breweries broke with the trend, however. Asahi, the only major beer maker that does not produce low-malt beer, enjoyed a 4.3% increase in shipments in the first half of the year. Asahi's robust beer sales were mainly fuelled by the popularity of its mainstay "Super Dry," which captured about 40 percent of the regular beer market.

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