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Friday, 1 November, 2002, 13:16 GMT
Sea water beer craze hits brewers
Asahi happoshu
Asahi now offers its own happoshu beers

The craze for a cheap beer made out of sea water and raw malt is denting Japan's brewing industry.

The country's biggest brewer Asahi said it was seeing a continuing slide in sales as more and more Japanese turned to the drink called happoshu.

Asahi makes Japan's best-selling beer but in the past three months the company's operating profit has fallen more than 20%.

The popularity of happoshu is hurting the sales of all Japan's big brewers.

Asahi is trying to cash in on the craze by offering its own happoshu beers.

And the government is flirting with the idea of a new happoshu tax to help the established brewers.

Poor taste?

Happoshu, the Government argues, is cheap because its low malt content means it does not pay much tax.

But so far consumer groups, who say cheap beer is one of the few things to have come out of the country's long slump, have managed to resist this idea.

Commentators in Japan have also pointed out that happoshu, which many say has little taste, would have no appeal to cash-strapped customers if its price rose to the same level as the expensive beer brands.

According to one columnist at a Japanese website - Captain Japan - the only thing the success of happoshu proves, is that if a drink is cheap enough, it will sell, even if it tastes like medicine.

See also:

03 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
01 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
24 Sep 01 | UK
02 Aug 01 | Business
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