Since its acquisition by the Kao Group in 2006, Kanebo Cosmetics has undergone a real transformation. Product ranges were streamlined, and teams and sites were integrated. Last September, Kao inaugurated the group’s new R&D centre in Odawara (Kanagawa Prefecture), one of Kanebo’s historical sites. The group’s research and development teams are now gathered in these new labs inspired by the principles of kansei engineering.
80 years in the cosmetics business
Kanebo, a textile company founded in the late 19th century, launched its first cosmetic product in 1936. It consisted in a soap made of silk fibres and thereafter named Savon de Soie. Ten years later, in 1946, Kanebo launched its first cold cream: it is the first huge success for the group’s cosmetics division that will gradually diversify its products to become one of the giants of the Japanese market.
In 1966, the group officially opened its Paris office and laboratory. “At that time, the aim was to build on the French and European know-how to stand out in the Japanese market by offering innovative solutions,” said Hiroaki Katsukura, the current Director of the Paris office. This initiative quickly proved successful with the launch in Japan of several new products directly inspired by the Parisian laboratory and with some of these launches meeting big commercial success.
In 1983, Kanebo felt strong enough to conquer the world and launched Sensai, a premium brand for international markets.
Fifty years after its opening, the missions of the Kanebo the French laboratory have slightly shifted towards market and consumer insights. “We conduct consumer research, mainly in the group’s three most important European markets: Germany, Italy and Spain,” said Ghislaine Suquet, Product Manager at Kanebo Cosmetics Paris. “From Japan, Europe is sometimes viewed as a single entity, our role is to moderate this vision, to highlight the differences between the markets.”
The French office can also manage some new product developments when a specific French know-how is involved, as it was the case forthe launch of Sensai’s first fragrance in 2015. Other developments may also be made locally for environmental reasons, in particular for samples or nail varnishes.
A new start
Both Kanebo and Sensai are now Kao Group brands.
Inspired by the principles of “Chrono-Beauty”, the new Kanebo brand was launched in Japan in September 2016 in about 150 department stores and 200 specialty stores, with products focusing on skin care, makeup and wellness.
The new Kanebo brand will be launched in Asia (excluding China) in November, before Europe and Russia where the launch is scheduled for the autumn 2017. Regarding China, the deployment of the brand is not expected before 2020.
With this new brand, the Japanese group aims to carve out a solid place in the global high-end cosmetics market. To be continued!