Domestic shipments of beer and beer-like products in Japan registered a fall in the first three months of 2008, according to recent figures.

Data from the Brewers Association of Japan, released yesterday (10 April) showed that total shipments in the three months to the end of March slipped by 2.6% year-on-year, totalling 94.7m cases. While beer shipments were down by 4.9% to 49.5m cases, sales of 'happoshu' - the low malt beer alternative - also fell, by 4.5% to 24.7m cases.

The so-called 'third category' beer sector registered a 5.8% rise in shipments, meanwhile, to 20.5m cases.

One case represents the equivalent of 20 633-mililitre bottles.

Asahi Breweries, which raised prices across the beer board last month, saw its total shipments fall by 2.8% on the corresponding quarter a year earlier, to 35.1m cases. Despite the decrease, Asahi led Japan's brewers in shipments, as main rival Kirin Brewery saw its total shipments drop by 6.9% to 34m cases.

Asahi subsequently held a 37% share of the total market in the country, ahead of Kirin's 35.9%. Sapporo Breweries held the third spot, with 12.6m cases - down 0.9% year-on-year - garnering a market share of 13.3%.

Suntory Ltd., which has been more selective in its price increases, raised its shipments in the period by 8.6% to 21.1m cases. The company accounted for 12.8% market share.