Below is a look at the company's 2019 highlights, recent acquisitions, best-selling brands and latest innovations.
- Michitaka Sawada, president and chief executive officer
- Toshiaki Takeuchi, senior managing executive officer
- Yoshihiro Hasebe, senior managing executive officer
- Masumi Natsusaka, managing executive officer
- Yasushi Aoki, managing executive officer
- Tomoharu Matsuda, managing executive officer
- Shigeru Ueyama, managing executive officer
- Masakazu Negoro, managing executive director
- Yasushi Wada, managing executive director
- Osamu Tabata, managing executive director
Cosmetics, Skincare, Hair Care and Personal Care sold under brands including:
- Sofina iP, RMK, Suqqu
- Primavista, Coffret D’Or, Kate
- Molton Brown, Sensai, est
- Kanebo, Curél, freeplus
- Bioré, Jergens, Merit
- Essential, Liese, Carpe
- Rerise, John Freida, Success
- Goldwell, Oribe
- Bioré UV Aqua Rich
- Bioré UV Athlizm
- Bioré Baking Soda + Agave collection
- Oribe Gold Lust Power Drops
In 2018, Kao marked nine consecutive years of fiscal profitability, posting a corporate sales gain of 1.2% and overall consumer product sales increased 1.4%.
CEO Michitaka Sawada described Kao’s cosmetics business as “struggling” but “recovering” in his CEO address. To help grow that segment of its business, Kao restructured the unit into a New Global Portfolio built upon 11 high-end global brands (“G11”) and eight regional brands (“R8”). Specifically, the G11 pillar will focus on Kanebo Cosmetics to help globalize the Sensai brand that’s prominently marketed in Europe and will also accelerate the growth of prestige brands est, Kanebo, RMK and Suqqu. The company also hopes to accelerate the global expansion of the three mass brands Curél, freeplus and Kate beyond Japan and China, where they already do well.
Kao worked hard to revitalize the segment and in 2018, realized a 5% increase in profits to $2.6 billion. In the Americas and Europe, Jergens was a top performer but sales were offset by competitors launching a flurry of products similar to Bioré pore cleansers. Activity in the China market was boosted with the launch of Sofina iP Base Essence in September. The product uses carbon dioxide gas propellant to transform the beauty essence into a creamy foam meant to be used directly after facial cleansing. In addition, Kao introduced the Sofina line to Singapore in April 2018.
Kao’s skincare and hair care sales increased 2.6% to $3.1 billion. The John Frieda hair care brand stood up to intense market competition in Europe, however the U.S. business was strengthened with the January acquisition of the Oribe prestige hair care brand, and performance in Japan was led by the launch of Rerise, an innovative new product range for gray hair care. In September, Kao released three new Jergens Brilliance lotions in the Japan market. The brand is already sold in 41 countries and regions including the U.S.
In October 2018 the company released “Our Philosophy & Action on Plastic Packaging,” defining its current approach and future activities regarding responsible plastic use and disposal to reduce its environmental impact.
News of Note in 2019
In April, Kao announced a new global Environmental, Social and Governance strategy (ESG) called the Kirei Lifesyle Plan to address sustainable consumer lifestyle changes in the face of global challenges like climate change, aging societies, resource scarcity and the management of materials such as plastics. The Japanese word “kirei” describes something that is clean, well-ordered and beautiful, all at the same time. For Kao, this concept of Kirei not only describes appearance, but also attitude, which the company said it would translate into seeking to create beauty for oneself, and also for other people and the surrounding natural world.
Fiscally speaking, the first six months of 2019 were a mixed bag for Kao. Net sales dipped 1% compared to the same period last year. However, on a like-for-like basis, net sales decreased just 0.2%. Sales in the company’s cosmetic business were strong, posting a 9.3% net sales increase, while skincare and hair care sales dipped 1.3%.
In September, Kao Corporation was named to the 2019 Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the sixth year in a row.
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