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"Third Beer" is hot new category in Japan.

Kirin Brewery Co. and Asahi Breweries Ltd. have announced that they are joining the market for "third beers," a growign category in the Japanese market. The category has been dominated by Sapporo Breweries Ltd. and Suntory Ltd.

Third beers are taxed at a lower rate than regular beer, because they contain no malted barley. Prices for third beers are about 30% lower than regular beers, and 20% cheaper than "happoshu" or low-malt beers.

Kirin's new third beer is called Nodogoshi Nama, and is brewed from soybean protein. At a pre-launch tasting in Tokyo, Kirin president Koichiro Aramaki said that preorders exceeded 1.6 million cases.

Asahi's new third beer is called Shin Nama, based on a soybean peptide. It debuted April 20, and Asahi says initial shipments have already surpassed 2 million cases.

Sapporo's pea-based Draft One was the first product in the "third beer" category, and now the company is planning a new entry called Slims, which will have about half the calories of Draft One.

Sales of beer have been in decline in Japan. This decline has been arrested by the happoshu fad, but that category has also begun to decline.

Third beer sales reached 25.47 million cases in 2004, reaching about 10% share of market. Analysts expect third beer sales to double this year. Happoshu, which was first introduced in 1994, now holds about 35% of the Japanese market.

Third beers have cannibalized regular beer and happoshu sales, and industry watchers expect that to continue. Beer and happoshu sales are expected to drop 2-3 percent in 2005.

Sapporo's Draft One was introduced in February 2004. Suntory followed with Super Blue, made from happoshu mixed with wheat-based spirits, in June 2004.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:May 2, 2005
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