Return of Sensai: Kao steps up focus on prestige beauty with Asian expansion of ‘super-prestige’ brand

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Kao Group is primed to launch its prestige beauty brand Sensai in its home nation and China. ©Kao Group
Kao Group is primed to launch its prestige beauty brand Sensai in its home nation and China. ©Kao Group
Japanese personal care giant Kao Group is primed to launch its prestige beauty brand Sensai in its home nation and China, 40 years after its launch specifically for the European market.

The brand will be making its debut in Japan in the latter half of 2019 and plans to launch in China in 2020.

“Sensai is well-known in Europe. Now we recognise that ‘made-in-Japan’ and Japanese technology are more popular in Asia, so we decided to bring the Sensai brand back to Japan and into other Asian countries, especially China,” ​said Makiko Takahashi, corporate communications, Kao Group.

Focus on luxury and China

Kao has seen sales of cosmetics increase at home and in Asia in recent years with the success of brands such as Curél, KATE, freeplus, RMK and Suqqu.

Takahashi highlighted that the prestige beauty segment is continuing to drive the Asian market, largely due to demand from China.

However, the company does not have a strong prestige presence in China.

“We are doing very well in China because of brands like KATE and freeplus but they are mass brand. That’s why we are launching Sensai and will bring Kanebo in later,” ​said Takahashi.

She said the company was very confident that Sensai would do well in China because of its ‘Japan-orientated’​ image and luxury positioning.

“Chinese consumers love Japanese quality and luxury products. Sensai is out most premium prestige brand. We are sure Chinese consumers will love it,” ​she said.

Currently, Sensai has very little awareness in China, but the company hopes the Japan launch will elevate that.

“China has its own specific regulations and we are trying to launch as fast as we can. Meanwhile, we have a lot of Chinese tourists coming into Japan so our launch here will help boost the awareness in China,” ​said Hiwako Yoshino, corporate communications manager, Kao Group.

Strengthening growth globally

Kao also plans to leverage on Sensai’s popularity in Europe to further expand its footprint in the region as well as the Middle East.

The company just launched the brand in Harrods, along with the new Sensai Absolute Silk Micro Mousse Treatment, which contains its signature ingredient, Koishimaru Silk.

Additionally, Takahashi said the company would launch the brand in travel retail as part of the company’s goals to enhance its travel retail business.

Strengthening Sensai will pave the way for other high-end brands in Kao Group’s portfolio such as Kanebo, Suqqu and RMK.

Aside from expanding these brands, Kao has also teased the 2020 launch of a new brand under its subsidiary, e’quipe, which promises to “offer beauty from a new perspective”.

For 2020, Kao has set a sales target of over 300bn with an operating profit ratio of 10% and overseas sales ratio of 25%.


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