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Food & Beverage

Asahi ditches battle for market share and seeks crisp profit

Japanese brewer to stop reporting beer sales by volume

Asahi Breweries leads Japan's beer market, but Kirin Brewery is hot on its heels.

TOKYO -- Asahi Breweries will report beer sales by value rather than quantity starting next year, bowing out of a costly battle for market share in Japan to free up resources for expansion abroad.

President Kenichi Shiozawa told reporters Tuesday that the brewer projects a steep plunge in the size of Japan's beer market from 2030 on and will need to move away from an obsession over volume and market share.

"If we don't do it now, we won't survive," Shiozawa said. "It's a form of shock therapy to change our employees' thinking."

Asahi has made a number of overseas acquisitions in recent years, and scaling back promotional costs in Japan would give it more capital for such investments. But it will need to take care to avoid falling into the same trap as Kirin Brewery, which followed a similar strategy nearly a decade ago and saw its domestic beer market share drop and its brand diminish in value.

Asahi will continue to use volume-based internal sales targets for now as it works out new bench marks, Shiozawa said.

The switch to turnover figures will make it impossible to calculate market share, as Japan's other three big brewers -- Kirin, Suntory Beer and Sapporo Breweries -- report only by volume.

Some in the industry speculate that the Asahi Group Holdings unit, the current market leader, wants to prevent direct comparison with Kirin, which is hot on its heels in share terms and could overtake it next year. Based on brewers' reported sales, Asahi held an estimated 36.7% of the market in the six months through June, with Kirin close behind at 35.2%.

Asked whether the change represents a move away from transparency, Shiozawa said he thinks Asahi's disclosure stands up to comparison with other industries.

"Changes in the beer and happoshu [low-malt beer] markets can be estimated based on figures from research firms," he said.

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