Asahi Breweries Ltd. says it will stop releasing sales volume data for its beer and quasi-beer products this month, switching in January to the disclosure of the value of sales.

The major beer-maker is apparently intending to put more emphasis on boosting its profitability while moving out of the race for market share in terms of volume.

Some sources say Asahi Breweries, which was ranked first in the Japanese beer and quasi-beer market for nine straight years through 2018 but has recently been facing a sales slump, may be attempting to prevent the possible loss of its No. 1 status from being publicly known at a time when second-ranked Kirin Brewery Co. is rapidly catching up with the industry leader.

“We’ve pursued volume for a long time but now need to change the mindset of our employees to maintain profits,” Asahi Breweries President Kenichi Shiozawa said at a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Specifically, Asahi Breweries will end the announcement of year-on-year percentage changes in sales volumes for the categories of beer, happoshu low-malt quasi-beer and so-called third-segment beverages that have little or no malt content, and instead will begin to disclose year-on-year rates of change in the value of sales in those three categories, starting with data for 2019.

Consumers and industry officials have been paying close attention to the competition for the top spot between Asahi Breweries and Kirin Brewery.

The former’s withdrawal from the race will make it effectively impossible to compare data of the two companies or know which of them has won, although Kirin Brewery and two other major beer-makers — Sapporo Breweries Ltd. and Suntory Beer Ltd. — plan to continue releasing sales volume data, industry sources said.

In terms of volume, total annual beer and quasi-beer sales are highly likely to drop for the 15th straight year to hit a record low in 2019, due to the country’s falling population and the growing popularity of cheap chūhai spirits-based products. Sales at Asahi Breweries are estimated to fall for the third straight year, reflecting the dwindling popularity of its mainstay Super Dry beer.

Some sources have said Kirin Brewery could dethrone Asahi Breweries this year, backed by growing consumer preference for its third-segment products, such as Honkirin, which debuted in March 2018.

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