Happoshu, the low-malt beer-like beverage, looks set to overtake beer for the first time ever. Figures released today show that shipments of happoshu are expected to surpass those of beer in 2003 for the first time since it was launched in Japan in 1994.

In the month of November beer shipments fell by 8.8% to 24,474,000 cases, down for the 44th month in a row, while those of happoshu rose by 5% to 14,780,000 cases, the first increase in two months.

Cumulative shipments of happoshu for home consumption between January and November came to 176,936,000 cases, 53.1% of the total shipments of beer and happoshu for home consumption. Beer shipments totalled 156,577,000 cases, or 46.9%.

The annual shipment volume of happoshu is forecast to fall in 2003 from year-on-year levels for the first time due to a tax hike on the products in May and this year's unusually cool summer. However, happoshu's decline will be less than that of beer, according to industry officials.