Growing sales of malt-free beer have seen Kirin Holdings again claim top spot on the Japanese beer market, after two years of ceding pole position to Asahi.

No-malt beer, or "third beers" as they are sometimes known, accounted for 29.2% of Japanese beer market volume in first quarter of  2009, up from just 9% four years ago, Kirin said.

The brewer said this growth has helped it to retake the lead from Asahi in terms of domestic volume sales in the first quarter.

"We appreciate absolutely the favorable start to the year, as we understand it is the result of our efforts to provide good products to satisfy customers' expectation and needs," a Kirin spokesperson told just-drinks this week. 

"However, gaining market share is not our top priority. We always aim to increase customers with loyalty to the Kirin Brand."