Asahi Breweries has displaced Kirin as Japan's leading marketer of beer and "Happoshu" low malt liquor, ending Kirin's 48-year reign at the top, according to data for 2001 released by the country's five top brewers.

Asahi's market share last year was put at 38.7% against 35.8% for Kirin. The other two major forces, Sapporo and Suntory, have 15% and 9.7% respectively.

It was also announced that shipments of "happoshu" in 2001 exceeded 30% of Japan's overall beer/happoshu market for the first time. Happoshu represented 31.3% market, up 9.2 percentage points from the previous year.