Suntory is set to pull out of the domestic happoshu market, according to local reports.

A story in The Daily Yomiuri last last week claims that the Japanese brewer has concluded production of its MD Golden Dry flagship happoshu brand, and will pull out of the category altogether before the end of this year. Suntory was the first brewer to move into happoshu in 1994 with Hop's Draft.

The happoshu category had found favour with Japan's brewers and beer consumers alike, thanks to its reduced malt content. The country has four tax categories for beverages that contain malt, with happoshu costing markedly less than beer whilst retaining a similar taste.

However, happoshu has since been usurped by so-called 'third-category beer', which tastes of beer but does not contain any malt and so cost even less than happoshu.

The Yomiuri report states that, in the first half of this year, Suntory saw its happoshu shipments come in 40% down on the corresponding period a year ago, accounting for 1.6% of the company's total volumes.