Below is a look at the company's 2020 highlights, recent acquisitions, best-selling brands, and latest innovations.
- Michitaka Sawada, president and chief executive officer
- Toshiaki Takeuchi and Yoshihiro Hasebe, senior managing executive officers
- Tomoharu Matsuda, Shigeru Ueyama, Masakazu Negoro, Yasushi Wada, Osamu Tabata and Yoshihiro Murakami, managing executive officers
- Karen Frank president of Mass Business for the Americas and European region
- Jesse Grissom, president of operations in the Americas region
- Athletia, Curél, Est
- Freeplus, Kanebo, Kate
- Molton Brown, Sensai, Sofina iP
- And And, Asience, Bioré
- Blauné, Jergens, John Frieda
- Kao Sekken White, Liese, Merit
- MyKirei, Rerise, Segreta Success
- Goldwell, KMS, Oribe
- Curél Deep Moisture Spray
- MyKirei by Kao (U.S.)
- Sol by Jergens
A minor 1% slip in Kao’s 2019 corporate sales largely attributed to its chemical business was overshadowed by an 8% climb in cosmetics sales fueled by strong activity in Asia and on-track growth in Japan. Kao Group’s eleven “G11” global strategy brands (which include Curél and freeplus) and its eight “R8” regional brands performed well, and the company strengthened its high-prestige range with the rebranding of its super prestige Sensai brand for the European market. It also offered the est G.P. line of skin care cosmetics and products that apply Fine Fiber Technology for the formation of layered ultra-thin membranes.
Combined sales in Kao’s Skin Care and Hair Care units decreased a nominal 0.2% compared to 2019. Sales of skin care products increased. Bioré u The Body helped boost sales and market share in Japan. Hair care product sales were flat, save for strong sales turned in by hair color products in Japan, and for the Oribe hair salon brand in the Americas. Kao also launched new and improved premium priced shampoos, conditioners and related products in Japan and Europe. However, Kao pointed to overall sales of hair care products being affected by the shrinking mass market.
On the new product front, Kao utilized its partnership with Panasonic to launch a small Fine Fiber Technology diffuser to be used with est and Sensai brand skin care routine products to disburse an ultra-thin membrane of essence product on the face at nighttime, which is then peeled off the following morning.
In October 2019, Kao launched the Curél face care range in the UK and U.S. with the goal of growing the brand and strengthening its position in both Japan and overseas by extending Curél’s technologies for the care of dry, sensitive skin.
Like most companies, Kao felt the crunch from Covid. While some skin care products did well (Bioré hand soap and hand sanitizer specifically), overall skin and hair sales dropped 8.1%. Cosmetics fared worse, falling 12.1% year-on -year.
Undeterred, in April, Kao USA Inc. launched MyKirei by Kao, a personal care collection rooted in the Japanese aesthetic honoring simplicity, beauty and cleanliness. The launch set in motion Kao’s Kirei Lifestyle Plan, which pledges to lead global change and better serve the environment. With global challenges—like climate change, aging societies, resource scarcity, and plastic waste in the ocean in mind—MyKirei is comprised of vegan-friendly, plant-based formulas that are 95% biodegradable. The packaging for the Nourishing Shampoo, Conditioner and Hand Wash uses up to 50% less plastic and features eco-friendly delivery systems and unique, watertight bottles that gain rigidity through an air fill that allows them to stand upright like a traditional bottle. The design, according to Kao, prevents contamination and allows consumers to evacuate nearly every drop of product from the bottle.
In September, Kanebo Cosmetics released a dual-phase oil serum from Sensai, its super prestige brand. The Sensai “Expert Items” represent a new category of optional care products.
As of January 2021, Michitaka Sawada, president and chief executive officer, will be replaced by Yoshihiro Hasebe, currently one of two senior managing executive officers. Moving forward, Sawada will serve as director, chair.
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