Asahi has managed to hold on to the top spot in the Japanese beer market, despite a dip in sales volumes, according to local reports.

Asahi said that its sales of beer and beer-like drinks on the domestic market last year slid by 3.1% against 2005, coming in at 187.4m cases, a report for the Kyodo news agency said on Wednesday (10 January).

Even so, Asahi held off its main challenger, Kirin Brewery, to hold the lead for the sixth year in a row.

Kirin's sales in 2006 increased for a second successive year, reaching 187.1m cases, a climb of 4.8%.

While Kirin held the lead over Asahi in the first nine months of 2006, a late spurt of innovations from Asahi saw the leader reclaim the top spot in the last quarter of the year.

Figures released next week will show how the brewers performed on the export front.

Looking forward, Asahi is targeting sales of 198m cases in 2007, while Kirin hopes to hit 197.5m.