The Japanese brewer, Sapporo Breweries Ltd., is to launch a new range of low-alcohol drinks in the autumn under the brand name, Fruit Sparking. The move has been made in part to compensate for the tough conditions in the beer market.

Fruit Sparking will be available in cans from 7 September. The brewer expects to achieve sales of 6,720 kilolitres by December and 25,200 kilolitres in 2006.

Sapporo said that it will be using its own beer and winemaking technology in the production of Fruit Sparking, allowing fermentation of the fruit juice itself instead of just mixing fruit juice and alcohol.

Sapporo is the latest brewer to attempt to capitalise on a trend which has seen Japanese consumers move away from beer to lower-priced, low-alcohol beverages such as fruit-flavoured chuhai alcoholic drinks.

Kirin has already had success with its Hyoketsu canned fruit-flavoured chuhai brand which now accounts for 40% of Japan's chuhai market, having been introduced in 2001.