With competition in the happoshu market becoming ever more intense, Sapporo Breweries Ltd has announced that it is to launch a cheaper "happoshu" brand in mid-May. The "Kiritto" brand will sell for Y135 for a 350ml can, 10 yen cheaper than the average happoshu price. The 500ml can will sell for Y185.

Kirin was the first to cut happoshu prices with the launch of "Gokunama" in February. Asahi responded with a price cut for its "Honnama" brand and then Suntory followed suit. Sapporo had been waiting to see how the market reacted. Observers believe that its recent decision could prompt further price-cutting.

Meanwhile, Asahi Breweries Ltd announced on Monday that it had sold 50 million 12.66-litre cases of "Asahi Honnama" happoshu since its launch in February 2001. The company said it hoped sales from January to December 2002 would total 51 million cases.