BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: Business
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Market Data 
Your Money 
Business Basics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 07:59 GMT
Japan keeps drinking as economy slides
Asahi beer
The beer of choice in Japan
Japan's economy may be on the skids, but the country's taste for beer is certainly not.

According to the latest figures, shipments of beer in December were up 6.1% on the year before.

The increase is largely thanks to the wildfire demand for happoshu, or "low-malt" beer, a cheaper option than the traditional variety.

For 2001 as a whole, happoshu shipments for the domestic market grew 42.2% to 2.3 billion litres, extending a steady trend of growth ever since its introduction by Sapporo in 1994.

But real beer drinking is on the decline, falling 11.6% year on year to 4.9 billion litres.

The change in drinking habits has triggered interest from the government.

Happoshu is taxed at a lower rate than normal beer - one contributing factor in the price differential, and an anomaly the Finance Ministry was keen to remove.

The soaring demand, it reasoned, made it a prime target for tax rises to help prop up an exchequer sagging under a huge public debt and a slumping tax take.

But the brewers fought off the ministry's plans, pointing out that the drinks industry stood every chance of joining the rest of Japan's economy in the doldrums should the tax rises be realised.

Switch at the top

The continuing demand for happoshu has also catalysed a change in the pecking order of Japanese brands.

For 48 years, the many brands of the Kirin Brewery has been the nation's favourite.

But in 2001, the Brewers' Association of Japan said, Asahi took over the top spot, grabbing 38.7% of the domestic market against Kirin's 35.8%.

Asahi was slow to join the happoshu trend, only introducing its own "Honnama" (genuine draft) brand in February 2001.

See also:

24 Dec 01 | Business
Carling sold to US brewer
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Business stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Business stories