Asahi Breweries said yesterday (28 March) that it would expand its presence in Japan's 'third-beer' category with the launch of the Gubinama brand, according to local reports.

Gubinama will be Asahi's third brand in the fast-growing segment. Demand in the third-beer category - beers made without malt - has been growing steadily in Japan because they are cheaper than regular and low-malt beers.

According to Japan's Nikkei Report, Gubinama is targeted at beer drinkers in their 20s and 30s, while Asahi's Shin-Nama 3 brand is aimed at older consumers.

The report said that Asahi aims to sell 7m cases of Gubinama and a combined 19m cases of Gubinama and Shin-Nama 3 by the end of this year. The brewer hopes to raise its share of the third-beer category from 19.1% in 2005 to 21.3% this year.

Asahi, Japan's largest brewer, last month reported a 1% dip in sales during 2005 to JPY1.43trn (US$12.1bn). Operating profits slumped 11% to JPY90.3bn.