Asahi Breweries is targeting a slight increase on its forecast sales volumes for next year.

The Japanese company said yesterday (14 December) that it is aiming for an increase in total volumes in 2007 of 1% to 198m cases.

Asahi's president, Hitoshi Ogita, told a news conference in Japan that the company will look to strengthen its domestic alcoholic drinks business next year.

As a break-down, Asahi has set a target of 139m cases for beer shipments in 2007, a drop of 4m on this year's target, with 'happoshu' shipments aimed at 33m cases, a 4m rise on 2006. For the 'third-beer' category, the company is hoping for sales of around 26m cases, up by 2m on this year's target.

The company is planning to release a number of new products in 2007, including a bottled version of its flagship beer brand Super Dry in March, as well as 'Honnama Draft' and a new version of 'Honnama Aqua Blue' in the happoshu sector in February.

Earlier this week, Asahi transferred the UK sales and distribution rights for Super Dry to local partner Shepherd Neame.

The move follows Asahi's announcement in April that it will close Asahi Beer Europe next year and manage its presence on the continent direct from Tokyo.