Suntory hopes to emulate potential merger partner Kirin with its first alcohol-free beer-flavoured beverage in Japan.

The carbonated drink, named Fine Zero, will launch on 29 September.

Like Kirin's runaway hit "Free" beer, Zero is a non-fermented liquor that is made using juice extracted from boiled barley and hops. Suntory said use of malt and an unspecified new technology gives the drink a real beer-like head.

Given Japan's zero blood alcohol tolerance for drivers, Kirin's Free non-alcohol beer flew off the shelves when introduced in April.

Suntory hopes to match Kirin's sales of around 330,000 cases per month. The secret of Kirin's success was to create a beer that has broken the taste barrier that has dogged other non-alcoholic brews.

A 350ml can of Fine Zero will sell for JPY140 (US$1.5), including tax.