Beer shipments in Japan continued their downward trend last year, according to recent figures.

Domestic shipments of beer, happoshu and so-called third category beer beverages slipped by 0.3% in 2007, compared to a year earlier, coming in at 496.1m cases. The decrease marks the third year in a row that shipments have fallen, and marked the lowest level since 1992, when such statistic reporting began.

The figures, collated from Japan's five major brewers yesterday (17 January), show Asahi Breweries as maintaining its market leadership position for the seventh straight year, with 37.9% share - up by 0.1% on 2006. Kirin Brewery came in just 0.1% behind Asahi, thanks to a 0.2% lift in shipments from the company.

Sapporo holds third place, down 0.4% at 12.5% market share. Suntory is fourth, with 11%.

In category terms, shipments of regular beer were down by 0.9% year-on-year at 274m cases, with low-malt happoshu shipments down 2.5% to 121.7m cases. Third category beer-like beverages, meanwhile increased by 4.4% in 2007 to 100.4m cases.

One case contains the equivalent of 20 633ml bottles.