Beer, ‘happoshu’ orders lose steam

Shipments of beer and “happoshu” fell in September for the first time in three months, according to data released Thursday by the nation’s five leading breweries.

Despite favorable weather, demand was down 1.6 percent from the year before, the companies said, blaming the ongoing economic slump.

Shipments in September of beer and happoshu, a low-malt, beerlike beverage, totaled 525,572 kiloliters, according to Asahi Breweries Ltd., Kirin Brewery Co., Sapporo Breweries Ltd., Suntory Ltd. and Orion Breweries Ltd.

Beer shipments fell for the 30th straight month, down 9.5 percent to 318,231 kiloliters.

In contrast, shipments of its cheaper cousin continued strong. Happoshu sales were up 13.6 percent to 207,341 kiloliters, marking double-digit growth for the second straight month. The brew is similar to beer but is taxed less thanks to its lower malt content.

Happoshu accounted for 39.5 percent of the total market in September.