Kao USA knows the Tao to beautiful skin. The company, pronounced "cow," formulates and makes personal care products for men and women. Its bulging brands portfolio includes its flagship Jergens, as well as Curél skin care; John Frieda, Goldwell, KMS California, and Guhl hair care products; Bioré facial cleansers and strips; and Ban antiperspirants and deodorants, among others. Kao USA maintains operations in North America, Europe, Australia, and the Middle East, and markets its products in more than 50 countries. Founded in 1882 as the Jergens Soap Company, the business began by making primarily coconut oil soap. It became a subsidiary of Japan's Kao Corporation and adopted the Kao Brands name.
Begun as Jergens Soap Company in the US and now under the umbrella of a Japanese personal care products company, Kao USA extends the reach of its business from the Americas to Europe, the Middle East, and the Africa regions. Altogether, the company supplies its products to customers in more than 50 countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, and the US.
Kao USA makes beauty care and premium mass and professional hair care products, marketing them to mostly female customers worldwide. Brands include John Frieda, Guhl, Goldwell, KMS California, Jergens, Curél, Bioré, Ban, and Molton Brown.
While Kao Corporation does not report revenue specifically for Kao USA, its Americas business contributed nearly 9% of the firm's 2013 revenue, a 21% increase vs. 2011.
Product launches have helped to hold rivals P&G and Unilever at bay. Among them, Kao USA rolled out a handful of products intended to answer common hair care complaints (such as frizziness, root touch-ups, and limp tresses), as well as boost the benefits of a sunless tan with anti-aging moisturizers and SPF protection.
To boost its business in the New England area, Kao USA in 2013 acquired the direct sales division of Essential Salon Products, Inc., which keeps busy selling salon-exclusive Goldwell and KMS California products in the region.
Deeply rooted in North America, Kao USA has been working to expand its premium mass-market business to Europe. Kao USA is looking to leverage its existing good fortune in the UK, where the company has earned about a 10% share of the hair care products market. To this end, the company in 2012 established its European headquarters in Darmstadt as its largest European site. This is where the company manages the Goldwell and KMS California professional hair care brands and develops its John Frieda and Guhl brands.
The company also has a rising share of the personal care market in France, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. To this end, Kao USA launched its Jergens' lineup in India.
As part of an effort by its parent to reposition the company, the personal care products maker changed its name effective January 1, 2012, to Kao USA, Inc. The move consolidated Kao's beauty care subsidiaries in North America and Europe, leveraging the firm's experience and resources on a global scale.
Physically, as well, Kao USA moved to a downtown Cincinnati office in 2012 that spans more than 55,000 sq. ft. The offices house 200-plus employees focused on marketing, sales, and market research functions, as well as those centered on creative and administration.