Japan. First-half beer shipments fall to record low since 1992

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In Japan shipments of beer and quasi-beer decreased by 3.5% year-on-year to 200,323,000 cases in the first half of 2011, data released on Tuesday by the country’s five major brewers showed. This is the lowest since comparable statistics became available in 1992. The previous low was recorded in 2010.

During the first half of this year, shipments of “regular” beer fell by 4.8% and “happo-shu” low-malt beer by 12.5% year-on-year, Asahi Breweries reported.

In contrast, shipments of third-category beer increased by 3.2% during the six-month period compared to the same period in 2010.

The record low in shipments is mainly due to the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami in March, that damaged breweries while interrupting beer transports. But beer shipments decreased clearly by 11.0% in June, a figure larger than the 5.3% drop in March, according to Asahi. The drop is also attributed to fewer after-work drinking parties and retailers’ refraining from special sales following the March disaster. Another reason might be the newfound popularity of “retro drinks” such as highballs or whiskey and soda, which were already affecting beer shipments before March, it is reported. The lower demand is also due to the earlier than usual start of the rainy season that also dampened Japan’s beer shipments.

All five largest brewers reported drops in shipments in the period and the rankings remained unchanged from the same period in 2010.

Asahi Breweries Ltd. with a market share of 37.8% is still number one in Japan’s beer market.

Kirin Brewery Co. ranks second at 36.1%.

Suntory Liquors Ltd. holds 13.6% of the market, followed by Sapporo Breweries Ltd. at 11.6% and Orion Breweries Ltd. at 0.9%.

(One case contains the equivalent of 20 633-milliliter bottles.)