Domestic beer shipments in 2009 fell 2.1 percent from a year earlier to a record-low 472.5 million cases, while shipments of beerlike alcoholic drinks expanded, according to data released Friday by the country’s top five brewers.
It was the fifth straight year for shipments to fall to an all-time low. One case holds 20 633-ml bottles. Comparable data have been compiled since 1992.
Kirin Brewery Co. came top in domestic market share for the first time in nine years at 37.7 percent, overtaking Asahi Breweries Ltd., which had occupied the top slot for the preceding eight years.
The two brewers fought a close contest through 2009, with Kirin’s share only 0.2 percentage point higher than Asahi’s.
The data cover shipments of beer, low-malt “happoshu” beer and so-called third-category beerlike alcoholic drinks.
Shipments of the low-priced third-category drinks expanded as consumers tightened their purse strings amid the anemic economy.
The brewers blamed the overall shipment shrinkage partly on young consumers distancing themselves from regular beer.
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