Japan's largest brewer, Kirin Brewery Co Ltd and the country's largest whisky distiller, Suntory Ltd are both aiming to push sales growth this year in low-malt beer.

Both Suntory Ltd and Kirin Brewery Co Ltd have announced their expectations for a rise in domestic beer sales within the low-malt market sector, which now accounts for more than 20% of the total beer market in Japan.

Kirin Brewery said on Wednesday it is aiming for domestic sales, including low malt beer, at 218.80 million cases (a case comprises 20 of 633cc bottles) in 2001 - up 6.1% from a year earlier. It blamed prolonged slow consumption for the 4.2% drop in 2000 domestic sales which it estimates will reach 215.4m cases.

But, even though Suntory Ltd expects the regular Japanese beer market to show a 4% decline in sales, it also expects the low-malt sector to climb about 10%, taking a 25% share in the overall beer market (low-malt beer products receive more liberal tax treatment than regular beer), Dow Jones International News reported.

Suntory told Dow Jones that its low-priced, low-malt beer "Super Hop's Magnum Dry" has the potential for further sales growth and is aiming for a 6% on-year rise in domestic beer sales to 61 million cases for 2001.