Three of the top four brewers in Japan have forecast a stronger performance for their products in 2009 compared to last year, according to local reports.

Asahi Breweries, Suntory and Sapporo Breweries have all said they expect sales of beer, happoshu and 'third-segment' beverages this year to beat last year's sales, a report from Jiji Press English News Service said late last week. Asahi has predicted total sales of 183m cases this year (a rise of 0.8% on 2008), with Suntory targeting 62.3m cases (up 4.5%) and Sapporo hoping for 58m cases (up 3%).

Kirin Brewery, meanwhile expects its total sales this year to come in 0.5% down on 2008, at 179.3m cases, the news service noted.

One case contains the equivalent of 20 633-millilitre bottles.

With Japanese consumers looking to spend less going forward, Jiji said, all four brewers have forecast double-digit percentage increases in 'third-segment' beverages, which are priced lower than beer thanks to the tax structure in the country.