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Asahi Tops Kirin in Japan Beer Sales as Demand Falls

Asahi Tops Kirin in 2010 Japan Beer Sales as Market Shrinks
Bottles of Asahi Breweries Ltd.'s Super Dry beer are displayed for sale at a liquor shop in Tokyo. Photographer: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg

Asahi Breweries Ltd. regained the lead in Japan beer sales from Kirin Holdings Co. as demand in the nation fell for a sixth straight year in 2010.

Asahi had a 37.5 percent share of shipments for standard beer, low-malt and no-malt beer last year, ahead of Kirin’s 36.7 percent, the Tokyo-based brewers said today in separate statements. Industrywide sales dropped 2.8 percent to 459 million cases, the lowest level since records began in 1992.

Kirin’s share dropped from 37.7 percent in 2009, when it surpassed Asahi for the first time in nine years, as sales of its “Lager” brand fell 8.9 percent last year. Asahi said demand for its “Super Dry” and “Clear Asahi” brands helped maintain the company’s market share unchanged from 2009.

Asahi, Suntory Holdings Ltd. and Sapporo Holdings Ltd. forecast beer demand in their home market will drop by 2 percent to 3 percent this year, partly because of an aging and shrinking population, they said earlier this month.

Suntory’s share in 2010 was 12.9 percent and Sapporo’s was 12 percent.

Asahi rose 0.1 percent to 1,582 yen at the 3 p.m. close in Tokyo trading. Kirin gained 0.4 percent to 1,137 yen and Sapporo dropped 0.8 percent to 378 yen.

A case of beer in Japan is equivalent to 12.66 liters (3.3 gallons). Japan is the world’s seventh-largest beer market, according to Kirin.

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