Sales: $9.5 billion (estimated) for personal, household and oral care products. Corporate sales: $12.7 billion.
Key Personnel: Michitaka Sawada, president and chief executive officer; Katsuhiko Yoshida, Toshiaki Takeuchi, Yoshihiro Hasebe, senior managing executive officers; Masumi Natsusaka, Motohiro Morimura, Yasushi Aoki, Hideko Aoki, Kozo Saito, Tomoharu Matsuda and Shigeru Ueyama, managing executive officers.
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: Beauty Care—Sofina iP base essence, Est the lotion, Oribe (acquisition); Fabric and Home Care—Attack Neo Antibacterial EX W Power.
Comments: Kao, Shiseido and other Japanese cosmetics companies are set to benefit from J-beauty, the newest craze to hit the global cosmetics market. Unlike K-beauty, the Japanese cosmetics routine is more sophisticated with fewer steps, explain industry executives. If J-beauty reaches the popularity levels of its Korean predecessor, that will be great news for Kao and fellow Japanese beauty companies.
Although Kao’s consumer product sales slipped 2.1%, on a like-for-like basis, sales increased 2.6%. In Asia, consumer product sales surged 7.1%, with big gains in China and Indonesia. In the Americas, sales increased 5.5%, but European sales slipped 1.5%.
Beauty care sales fell 2.6, due in part to declines in mid-priced skin care lines in Japan. Cosmetics sales decreased 4.8%. Outside Japan, the Kao Group substantially expanded sales, with a strong performance in Asia, mainly in China. However, sales in Japan fell slightly short of the previous fiscal year on a like-for-like basis. In addition to a decline in inbound sales, which grew significantly in 2016, mid-price skin care brands faced an uphill battle. On the other hand, major reforms of the cosmetics business are progressing steadily, and Sofina iP base essence, which also started a rollout in Asia, performed well.
The global brand Kanebo started a rollout in Europe, in addition to Japan and Asia. Sales of Suqqu, a prestige brand available in the department store channel, and Est the lotion, which was launched in fall 2017, grew strongly. Skin and hair care product sales fell 1.0%. Sales of Bioré grew steadily, with good performance in Japan, Asia and the Americas, and a rollout in Europe. Sales of Curél derma care products grew strongly in Japan and Asia, due in part to the launch of new products for the aging care market and progress in building a lineup in the cosmetics category. On the other hand, sales of hair care products decreased in Japan due to the impact of the shrinking mass market. In Europe, sales of the John Frieda hair care brand decreased, but sales of professional hair care products were nearly flat.
Too late to impact last year’s results, but in December Kao acquired Oribe Hair Care LLC, a professional brand. Kao’s human health care business is composed primarily of food and beverage, and sanitary products, but the company lumps oral care and, inscrutably, eye masks in the mix. Several new products provided a lift to oral care products and something called MegaRhythm Steam Eye Mask attracted new users.
Fabric and home care sales fell 2.7%. Sales of laundry detergents were nearly flat in a severe market environment, despite the launch of improved Attack Neo Antibacterial EX W Power amid rising consumer awareness of bacteria. Sales of fabric softeners were steady. Growth in sales of home care products was firm due to consumer acceptance of high-value-added products. Sales of CuCute dishwashing detergent grew with the market penetration of a spray foam-type product. In Asia, although price competition in laundry detergents was severe in Thailand and Indonesia, sales were nearly on par with the previous fiscal year.
First quarter 2018 sales are off to a good start, as net sales rose 1.6%. Kao credits solid e-commerce sales and demand for cosmetics from visitors to Japan.
Looking long-term, Kao’s 2030 plan is for sales to reach ¥2.5 trillion, with ¥1.0 trillion coming from outside Japan. Last year, total sales were about ¥1.5 trillion.