Japanese brewer Kirin has blamed rising costs and a sluggish market for a drop in domestic beer sales and profits in its first half.

Beer sales by volume fell 7.5% for the six months to the end of June, Kirin announced today (4 August). The drop sent volumes in the group's alcoholic beverages division down by 3.3% on the corresponding period a year earlier, with sales in value terms dipping by 0.5% to JPY545.3bn (US$5bn).

Japan's beer market continued to suffer as a result of an ageing population and a consumer shift away from beer, the group said in an update to its medium-term business plan, also released today.

Rising energy and raw materials costs, as well as a slowing Japanese economy, also impacted performance in the first half, it added.

"In this environment, rather than pursuing an absolute increase in scale, Kirin aims to develop its strategy of being number one in each category to become the leader in the combined market for beer, happoshu and new genre," the firm said.

Beer sales abroad were boosted by its 46% stake in Australian brewer and wine group Lion Nathan, which said on 24 July that revenue rose 7% for the nine months ended 30 June, with beer volumes up 3.3% to 686m litres.

Kirin's total group sales for the first half rose 25% to JPY1,048bn, with operating income up 11% to JPY47.5bn.