The Japanese brewer, Kirin Brewery Co., reported a 41% surge in net profit to Y32.54 billion (US$270.4m), or Y33.26 yen per share, for 2002, from Y23.12 billion yen in 2001. Revenues were up by 1.4% at Y1.58 trillion.

The company, Japan's second largest brewer, also predicted better results for the coming year, on the back of strong growth in fruit-flavoured drinks and lower marketing costs.

Kirin said sales of non-beer beverages, such as the "chuhai" cocktails, had helped to offset the decline in the beer sector. "The alcohol market is saturated, so we need to find pockets of growth," said Kirin's managing director, Yoshikazu Arai. "There is explosive growth in the canned chuhai market and we think there is potential for more."

Kirin stepped up its marketing in the chuhai sector in the face of declining sales of beer and happoshu. The company said its chuhai sales tripled in 2002 and it is forecasting 50% growth in 2003.