How Kao’s brand portfolio is shaping up

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

How Kao’s brand portfolio is shaping up
Kao first entered the beauty scene in 1887. For more than a century, the Japanese beauty heavyweight has launched a multitude of brands to attract its domestic and global consumers.

Segmenting its audience and creating brands to appeal to these target beauty buyers, Kao recently unveiled its up and coming plans for each of its core brands.

Following the news that Kao is preparing to develop a brand new cosmetics portfolio that draws upon its market knowledge and strategic direction towards O2O and travel retail​, we take a look at how this growth plan is expected to impact its existing portfolio.

Kao cosmetics supporters are familiar with Sensai, est, Kanebo, RMK, Suqqu and Sofina iP as part of its make up. In the short-to-mid term, each of these popular names will be reviewed to enhance their offerings for their loyal buyers.

Brand updates


Promoted by Kanebo Cosmetics to more than 40 countries around the world, Sensai will see its prestige reputation and market presence reach additional markets by gaining followers internationally.

Since its launch in 1983, Sensai has prioritised innovation through "its rare signature ingredient Koishimaru silk and its original Saho skin care method",​ Kao announced in a recent press release.

Sensai is now projected to grow as Kao will add another line to its range in Europe in 2019. The Japanese business is also expected to strengthen its domestic presence by opening a flagship store in the autumn of 2019.

Kao has also pinpointed China as a core market as Sensai is expected to launch there in 2020.

est and Kanebo

As Kao sets it sights on maximising its prestige ranges, its other high-end skin care brands, est by Sofina and Kanebo by Kanebo Cosmetics will boost their value-added product collections.

From a strategic marketing perspective, the luxury names strive to enter “a style of brand communication with a more defined worldview,”​ Kao mentioned.

RMK and Suqqu

e’quipe, a 100% subsidiary belonging to Kanebo Cosmetics, will drive its overseas operations forward for RMK and SUQQU, as Kao plans to increase its global popularity and explore its travel retail business further.

Sofina iP

Since Sofina entered the Kao family in 2016, it has shipped over 3 million units of Sofina iP Base Essence. Following its success, making it Japan’s top-selling beauty serum — according to Vintage SRI beauty serum (excluding whitening) market, September 2016 to December 2017 exploring cumulative sales and quantity by brand — it will launch a new range, Sofina iP.

Mass brands

Curél will expand in Japan and Asia. The skin care name is also tipped to enter both Europe and the US from 2019. freeplus, which has a significant foothold in China, will be launched throughout Asia, with specific and accelerated efforts made in Japan and ASEAN.

Kate, which has witnessed a top sales share in Japan for 16 consecutive years running, as recorded by Intage SRI self-makeup market between January 2002 to December 2017, is preparing to reach the position of the number one make up brand in Asia. Focusing on its offline presence, Kate is getting ready to appear in more physical stores in Asia, along with a strong O2O campaign to boost its digital presence.  

What’s new?

As Kao leverages its existing position in international markets, it hopes to build upon its engagement to enable e’quipe to unveil a new brand in 2020 that provides “beauty from a new perspective”.

Mass brands are expected to be a key area of business and are anticipated to take off around the world. As such, Kao is backing the strong performance of skin care line Curél, freeplus and mak eup name Kate for additional wins.

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