Beer shipments in Japan fell to their lowest ever level last month, according to new figures.

Statistics from the Brewers Association of Japan, released today (11 March), showed that shipments of beer in February fell by 23.2% on the corresponding month a year earlier.

Shipments of 'happoshu' fell by 19.6%, accounting for 23% share of beer product shipments in the month.

But, the so-called third-category of beer-like beverages leapt to account for a record 30.1% share of beer product shipments. The third-category saw shipments leap by 47.3% on February 2007, hitting 9.4m cases.

Beer hit a record low in the month of just 46.8% share of total shipments.

Collective shipments of beer and beer-like beverages in February fell by 9.2% to 31.2m cases, the fourth consecutive month of decline.

The third-category enjoys cheaper prices compared to beer thanks to Japan's tax structure.

While shipments from Asahi Breweries, which introduced price rises in March last year, fell by 37.5%, Suntory and Sapporo Breweries also registered declines, the association said. Kirin Brewery Co., which raised its prices in February, saw shipments leap by around 50%.