Sales: $7.6 billion
Key Personnel: Michitaka Sawada, president and chief executive officer; Katsuhiko Yoshida, senior managing executive officer; Toshiaki Takeuchi, managing executive officer; Masumi Natsusaka, managing executive officer; Motohiro Morimura, managing executive officer; Yasushi Aoki, managing executive officer; Hideko Aoki, managing executive officer.
Major Products: Beauty Care—Sofina, Kanebo, Molton Brown, Bioré, Jergens, Asience, John Frieda, Goldwell; Fabric and Home Care—Attack, Haiter, Magiclean; Human Health Care—Pyoura and Clear Clean oral care, Bub bath additives.
New Products: Dew Beauté, Jergens Wet Skin Moisturizer, Jergens BB Protect, Bioré Charcoal, Curél Rough Skin Rescue and Itch Defense, KMS Curl Up, Molton Brown Body Polisher, Guhl Seiden Glanz hair care collection, Attack Neo Antibacterial EX W Power detergent, Humming Fine fabric softener, Wide Haiter EX Power bleach, Magiclean Brightening Sheets, Attack Jazl.
Comments: Driven by gains in chemicals and feminine hygiene, corporate sales rose 6.6% last year, ahead of gains for beauty care (3.4%) and fabric and home care (4.3%).
Taking a closer look at the beauty segment, sales of cosmetics rose 1.4% to $2.1 billion. Sales in Japan were flat, but brands such as Sofina Primavista, Alblanc and new Dew Beauté anti-aging products provided a lift. Outside its home market, sales got a lift from Molton Brown in the UK.
Skin care sales rose in 2014. In Japan, sales increased due to strong performances by Bioré facial cleanser, Bioré U body cleanser and Curél derma care products. A strong performance by Bioré lifted sales in Asia, while in the Americas the launch of improved Jergens products was well-received, according to the company.
Hair care product sales were flat, but sales in Japan rose due to strong demand for shampoos, conditioners and styling products. However, an ultra-competitive retail environment hurt sales in the Americas and Europe. In Asia, sales declined as Kao trimmed its product offerings.
Within fabric and home care, detergent sales rose on the strength of Neo promotional activities and Kao drove home the environmental appeal of conserving water, electricity and resources. Mid-year, Kao rolled out Attack Neo Antibacterial EX W Power, an ultra-concentrate with anti-mold activities.
Sales of home cleaning products were up, helped along by the introduction of an improved version of CuCute dishwashing detergent and the launch of Magiclean Brightening Sheets, a home cleaning product.
By region, sales in Japan increased 3.9% to more than $7.5 billion. The company credited the increase to a rapid response to changing consumer lifestyles and social issues such as the environment, health, aging and hygiene. In Asia, sales rose 20.7% to more than $1.1 billion, as demand for consumer products rose among the growing middle class. In the Americas, sales increased nearly 16% to about $672 million, although half the gain was attributed to currency changes. In this market, sales of skin care products rose during the year, while sales of hair care products declined. Finally, in Europe, sales increased 16.7% to more than $707 million, but again, half the gain was attributed to forex moves. Cosmetic sales rose and hair care sales declined during the year.
Unfortunately, the good news didn’t continue into 2015. First quarter sales fell 3.6%. What’s worse, excluding the effects of currency translation, net sales would have decreased 6.5%.