Combined shipments of beer and its “happoshu” cousin fell 2.7 percent in May from a year earlier as strong demand for happoshu failed to make up for shrinking demand for beer, according to data released Wednesday by Japan’s five leading breweries.

The decrease followed a 3.1 percent decline in March and a 0.6 percent rise in April.

May’s shipments of beer and happoshu — a low-malt beverage designed to squeeze under beer-tax regulations — totaled 592,449 kiloliters, according to Asahi Breweries Ltd., Kirin Brewery Co., Sapporo Breweries Ltd., Suntory Ltd. and Orion Breweries Ltd.

Shipments of happoshu totaled 233,404 kiloliters, up 11.8 percent.

May marked six years of continuous growth in demand for happoshu. The brew accounted for 39.4 percent of the total market in the month.

Shipments of beer came to 359,045 kiloliters, down 10.3 percent for the 26th consecutive month of decline.

Asahi, Japan’s largest brewer in terms of market share and the only one that releases statistics on monthly sales, said its shipments of beer and happoshu in May fell 3.6 percent from a year earlier to 227,214 kiloliters.

Asahi’s shipments of beer fell 6.2 percent, while those of happoshu increased 5 percent.

The four other brewers only release data that are part of combined figures.

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