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Asahi Breweries Ltd. said Tuesday that it will launch a beerlike alcoholic beverage that is subject to lower liquor taxes on April 20.

Asahi is attempting to catch up to Sapporo Breweries Ltd. and Suntory Ltd., which have already launched products in the so-called third category of beer. Kirin Brewery Co. plans to follow suit by April.

The government is considering raising the tax on third-category brews, and growing competition among Japan’s major breweries will likely only fuel such talk.

Third-category brews are cheaper than conventional beer and “happoshu” low-malt beerlike beverages because they contain no malt, which is necessary for the product to be categorized and taxed as beer.

The taxes on such products are at least 50 yen lower than that for conventional beer and 20 yen lower than for happoshu per 350 ml.

Asahi Brewery’s new product, Asahi Shin-Nama, is made of soy protein.

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