Beer category shipments in Japan inched up slightly last month, according to recent figures.

Statistics from the country's Brewers Association, issued today (12 November), showed that shipments of beer and beer-like beverages in October were up by 0.8% on the corresponding period in 2006, reaching 39.3m cases.

One case equates to 20 633-millilitre bottles.

While third-category beer sales rose 5.2%, shipments of regular beer were flat in the month, up by only 0.1%. Sales of happoshu, the low-malt beer drink, slid in October by 1.8%.

The arrival of new brands from both Kirin Brewery Co. and Asahi Breweries were credited with lifting shipments of the third-category sector.

Indications among Japanese consumers, however, suggest that the release of additions to the beer and beer-like categories is leading to product fatigue. In a report from Kyodo News today, one industry analyst was cited as saying: ''The market is a bit overcrowded with new products and consumers are not exhibiting as much interest in them as they used to.''

Local reports last month suggested that Sapporo Breweries and Asahi Breweries were considering lifting beer prices due to rising raw material costs.

"We will have no choice but to consider price hikes if material and ingredient costs climb higher than they did this year," Asahi's president, Hitoshi Ogita, was cited as telling Nikkei.