Anheuser-Busch has moved to take full control of the Kirin portfolio in the US.

The Japanese brewer said today (25 August) that A-B has assumed the marketing rights to its brands in the US. A-B has brewed and distributed Kirin Ichiban and Kirin Light since 1996.

The deal is a further sign that A-B is looking to boost its presence in the import segment in the US, which has grown in recent years largely at the expense of mainstream domestic beer sales.

In March, the brewer signed a deal to handle Asia Pacific Breweries' flagship brand Tiger Beer in the US. In February, A-B signed a deal with Grolsch to import and distribute the Dutch brewer's brands across the Atlantic.

August A. Busch IV, president of A-B, said: "We are aggressively expanding our range of high-end beers to meet the diverse needs of our consumers. The Kirin beers are of the highest quality and have enormous potential, as the Asian influence is rapidly growing. This new agreement enhances a truly global relationship between our two companies. Now, we also share a deeper commitment to each other's success."

Kirin has brewed and distributed Budweiser in Japan since 1993. A-B brews Kirin beers at its plant in Los Angeles and ships them throughout the US through its network of 600 independent wholesalers.

The fresh agreement transforms the previous relationship in the US between the two brewers. A-B will now be responsible for driving profits from the Kirin stable while its responsibility over marketing replaces the Kirin Brewery of America joint venture vehicle, which was formed by the two companies in 1996.

Kirin International CEO Hitoshi Oshima said: "Kirin has been working with Anheuser-Busch in the U.S. market for almost ten years and we have great respect for them. Anheuser-Busch and Kirin share mutual understanding to enhance brand value through consumer focus and quality product."

Kirin said that sales of its flagship Kirin Ichiban brand increased by 9% in North America during the first half of the year.