Asahi Group extends Japan market share, Sapporo eyes US growth

Asahi Group extends Japan market share, Sapporo eyes US growth

Asahi Group remained Japan's number one brewer by volume in 2011, but rival Sapporo Holdings has offered a reminder that growth lies outside of the country.

Asahi said yesterday (17 January) that its domestic beer sales fell by 2.7% in volume for the 12 months to the end of December, hitting 167.6m cases. The fall came in spite of solid growth for the brewer's alcohol-free lager.

Although Asahi's volumes slid, figures compiled by Japanese newspaper Nikkei show that the group increased its lead over Kirin Holdings in terms of beer market share. Nikkei said Asahi accounted for 37.9% of the beer volume sales in Japan in 2011, versus 37.5% in 2010.

Domestic beer sales figures from all of the country's major brewers are expected to show volume declines for the year. Japan's beer market has been receding for several years and volumes in 2011 were further disrupted by the earthquake and tsunami that struck the country in March. 

Much of the potential growth for Japan's big brewers lies beyond the country's borders, as Sapporo Holdings again demonstrated this week. Sapporo said yesterday that its US business saw volumes rise by 10% in 2011, to 3m cases, mirroring the pace of growth in 2010 and set against a US beer market that has shrunk by between 1% and 2% for the last three years.

In the US, Sapporo said that it "will continue to invest in aggressive marketing measures to realise its goal to become a top ten import [beer] brand". Sapporo's namesake beer is currently 19th among imported beer brands in terms of volume sales.