MyKirei by Kao

Against the backdrop of the global coronavirus pandemic, Kao is launching a new personal-care brand in the U.S. market.

MyKirei by Kao is the first new brand the Japanese consumer giant has developed and launched specifically for the U.S. market, and is meant to be a chance for the company to gain some name recognition with consumers here.

Though the spread of COVID-19 has proved to be a tough launch market for the beauty industry, the timing is right for MyKirei’s debut given its sustainable and socially conscious ethos inspired by the minimalism and Japanese culture. The word “kirei” in Japanese is roughly translated to mean clean and tidy in English. 

MyKirei’s initial three products — a shampoo, conditioner and hand wash priced at $18 each — are set to launch exclusively on Amazon on Wednesday, April 22, in time for Earth Day.

The products are packaged in bottles that are said to use 50 percent less plastic than an average personal-care product pack, and are formulated to be 95 percent biodegradable with ingredients that are authentic to Japan, including yuzu, rice water and tsubaki flower.

“In Japan, they’ve already been living a simpler life — caring for the elderly and society, having less products and less plastic,” said Karen Frank, president of Kao USA, noting that the brand’s hand wash is an especially pertinent launch at a time when soaps and sanitizers are in high demand. “It feels like right now those are core principles the Western consumer wants to live by.”

Sustainability, said Frank, is endemic to Kao’s corporate culture, and she said the company is hoping that the launch of MyKirei will help U.S. consumers familiarize themselves with its Japanese parent.

Kao is the 10th largest beauty company in the world, according to data from WWD Beauty Inc’s Top 100 list. In 2019, the owner of brands such as Jergens, Bioré, Curél, John Frieda, Molton Brown, Goldwell and Oribe, brought in 621 billion yen, or $5.6 billion in sales. Despite the presence of several of its key brands in the U.S. market, Kao is not a household name like Procter & Gamble for consumers here.

“We want consumers here to have more awareness of who Kao is — right now there is no awareness,” said Frank. “We want to reinforce that this is something precious coming from Kao that they are offering to the Western consumer…the brand really reflects the values of the company.”

Despite shipping delays as Amazon navigates the global pandemic, the MyKirei launch is slated to go off without some of the wait times that have plagued brands. “We have a tremendous business with Amazon and they’ve been great partners,” noted John Sullivan, vice president of business growth at Kao.

Sullivan said the company intends to launch more incubated brands specific to the U.S. market in the fourth quarter. “We’re exploring a whole host of other brands with Japan and working with R&D,” he said. “The consumer is changing rapidly and we want to make sure we keep up.”

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