Kirin Brewery Co. barely remained ahead of Asahi Breweries Ltd. in beer shipments for the January-March period, according to data released Wednesday by the nation’s top five beer producers.
Asahi closed in on Kirin by raising its market share to 37.1 percent, while Kirin’s share was 37.5 percent, according to the data.
The close two-way race is expected to continue. Asahi was on top in the shipment rankings for the six years through 2006 on a calendar-year basis.
Kirin shipped 36.50 million cases in the January-March quarter.
The company’s total shipments of beer and beerlike beverages dipped 2.2 percent year on year, with sales of low-malt “happoshu” and so-called third-category products losing steam. Regular beer sales rose thanks to the release of a new product in March.
Shipments by Asahi climbed 3.2 percent to 36.05 million cases because sales of its happoshu and third-category beer began picking up last September. As a result, the difference between the market shares of Kirin and Asahi narrowed by 2.0 percentage points from a year earlier to 0.4 percentage point.
Sapporo Breweries Ltd. came in third with a 13.1 percent market share, followed by Suntory Ltd. at 11.4 percent and Orion Breweries Ltd. at 0.9 percent.