Sales: $11.2 billion
Key Personnel: Michitaka Sawada, president and chief executive officer; Katsuhiko Yoshida, senior managing executive officer, president, consumer products; Toshiaki Takeuchi, senior managing executive officer; Masumi Natsusaka, managing executive officer; Motohiro Morimura, managing executive officer; Yasushi Aoki, managing executive officer; Hideko Aoki, managing executive officer; Kozo Saito, 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: Raku-Raku Eco Pack refill, CuCute Clear Foam Spray dish detergent, Ultra Attack Neo liquid laundry detergent.
Comments: Kao says a strong commitment by all members of the Kao Group to provide products and brands of excellent value for consumer satisfaction or “Yoki-Monozukuri” still drives the company 130 years after its founding.
Despite rising sales and income, Kao remains under pressure. Its top cosmetics brands, Sofina and Kanebo, both face stiff competition from multinationals. To boost innovation, last year Kao combined its fundamental technology research and product development research for cosmetics at the Odawara Complex.
Last year, Kao reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 14% and water consumption by 17% on a per unit of sales basis.
This year marks the start of K20, Kao’s mid-term plan for 2017-2020. The plan is built on three platforms—foster a distinctive corporate image; maintain profitable growth; and provide returns to all stakeholders. Specifically, K20 is intended to propel Kao net sales of ¥2.5 trillion by 2030, with one trillion coming from outside Japan. To reach those levels, company executives are determined to make Kao a company with a global presence, aim for like-for-like net sales CAGR of 5% and operating margin of 15%, and build three ¥100 billion brands (Merries baby diapers, Attack laundry detergent and Bioré skin care products to be specific). Company executives note that Kao reached or exceeded the goals of its previous plan (K15), which were based on net sales, operating income and sales outside Japan.
In 2016, beauty care accounted for 41.3% of corporate sales, with fabric and home care the No. 2 group, with 23.7% of sales. Beauty care sales were mostly flat due to weakness in Japan, and a slowdown in China. But demand in Taiwan and Indonesia was up and sales of skin care products and upscale Molton Brown grooming products were said to be solid in the Americas and Europe. Meanwhile, home care sales were up 2.9%, as Kao pivoted toward hygiene that it says “represents the boundary between health and cleanliness.”
For the first quarter of 2017, consumer product sales rose a scant 0.1%, as beauty care sales declined 4% and home care sales dropped 2%. In contrast, human health care sales, which includes toothpaste and other personal hygiene items, rose 10.7%.