Fierce rivals United Breweries (UBL) and SABMiller are both claiming leadership of India's strong beer segment, a category that accounts for 65% of beer sales in the fast-growing market.

UBL, India's largest brewer, has claimed its Kingfisher Strong brand has now overtaken traditional category leader, the SABMiller-owned Haywards 5000.

However, sources at SABMiller told just-drinks today (19 April) that Haywards 5000 still leads the segment, although they acknowledged that the margin had narrowed.

The sources cited sales data compiled by India's excise authorities to support their claim. SABMiller said Haywards 5000 had sold 17.3m cases in the year to 31 March, compared to 16.37m cases of Kingfisher Strong sold by UBL. These figures give the Hayward 5000 brand around a 26.6% share of the strong beer category, compared to Kingfisher Strong's 25.4%.

Nevertheless, UBL claimed it had sold 18m cases of Kingfisher Strong over the 12-month period.

SABMiller has in the last year witnessed a slowdown in its strong beer sales with growth of only7% in the last 12 months. In contrast, sales of Kingfisher Strong leapt 41%. Strong beer is defined in India as beer sold with an abv of 5-8%.