Sales: $3.5 billion
Key Personnel: Sadayoshi Fujishige, chairman; Itsuo Hama, president; Masazumi Kikukawa, executive general manager, health and home care products; Kenjiro Kobayashi, executive general manager, international division.
Major Products: Oral care, skin care, beauty products, toiletries, fabric care, home care and household cleaners.
New Products: Top Hygia detergent, Look Bath Antimold Fogger, KireiKirei medicated foaming hand soap, Dentor Systema Toothpaste Sensitive Care, Fleuria hair care.
Comments: The double-whammy of economic malaise and heated competition on-shelf has wreaked havoc with Japanese companies’ results for the past several years and Lion, as a key domestic player in the household and oral care spaces, has felt the effects. The company notes that it competes in 42 “daily necessity” categories, where in recent years, has seen a steady decline in retail price of about 1% a year. Meanwhile, unit sales have risen 1-3% a year. As a result, the market has risen about 1% overall, which was the case in 2012, according to Lion, which reported corporate sales of $3.9 billion.
As for its own results, domestic sales rose 1.4% last year to more than $3.1 billion. Oral care sales were up 4.1% and fabric care sales rose 1.3%, but beauty care sales fell 10.7%.
Still there are some bright spots. Lion noted that the market share for high-value-added, super-concentrated liquid laundry detergent has risen from just 2% in 2009 to 20% in 2012. The company expects this product form will account for 40% of segment sales by 2015. No wonder why the company launched Top Hygia, which promises to enhance the antibacterial properties of clothing with each wash. Similarly, demand for premium toothpaste is rising, as witnessed by the 111% increase in sales posted by Lion’s Dent Health brand.
In the household space, Lion’s new Look Bath Antimold Fogger contains silver ions to kill black mold and spores throughout the bathroom upon application and makes it difficult for mold to regrow, thus making future cleaning easier.
Lion also competes outside Japan, primarily in Thailand, South Korea and China. International sales rose 10.1% last year to nearly $700 million.
This year, Lion has stepped up international marketing activities for its oral care and laundry detergents and began operations in the Philippines. To boost sales in its stagnant home market, Lion is launching high value-added toothpastes, toothbrushes, antiperspirants and laundry detergents, and will expand its lineup of products sold through direct-to-consumer channels.
One of these new products is Ban Shower deodorant, in a mist-spray format, that contains something called “deep nano ion sterilization” blended with proprietary micro powder ingredients to provide a long-lasting feeling of smooth skin. Another value-added launch making nano promises is Top Nanox, a super-concentrated liquid laundry detergent that removes dirt and odor by decomposing them into nano-sized particles. The new Clinica Advantage toothbrush has a super-slim head and neck to reach molars which, Lion contends, are lost by 14% of people in their 30s and 40s. Most recently, in June, Lion launched Fleuria, a hair care line that is designed to help older women achieve fuller hair. It contains 6-benzylaminopurine to promote hair growth and prevent hair loss. Interestingly, Fleuria is only available through mail-order.
Due to these and other activities, the company expects 2013 sales to rise 2%. So far in 2013, Lion is making good on that prediction, as first quarter sales rose 6% to nearly $760 million. While domestic consumer product sales rose less than 1%, sales outside Japan jumped 32.2% due, in part, to currency fluctuation, as well as strong demand for Pao laundry detergent in Thailand and Beat liquid laundry detergent in South Korea.