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 is a chemical and cosmetics company headquartered in Tokyomarker, Japanmarker.

Kao began as a domestic toiletry soap in 1887 by Tomiro Nagase. Until 1940, they were known as Nihon Yuki Company, changing their name then to Kao Soap Company, and finally in 1985 to Kao Corporation.

During the 1960s and the 1970s, the company expanded to Taiwan ang ASEAN, and also to oleochemicals in order to complement their main business. During this time, the company launched household products, laundry products, and industrial products to expand its revenue base (such as New Beads detergent, Humming fabric softener, Haiter bleach and Magiclean household cleaners).

During the 1980s, its hit products Merries diapers, Attack detergent, Biore daily skincare and Biore U daily body care, and Sofina cosmetics were launched. During this time, Kao engaged in several joint ventures (haircare in Europe, Nivea in Japan with Beiersdorf), and acquisitions (Andrew Jergens Company in 1988, Goldwell AG in 1989) in North America and Europe. During this period, Kao also expanded to the manufacture of floppy disks

During the 1990s and 2000s, the company expanded into China and Vietnam - countries that, during that time, are opening up its economy to the rest of the world. Also, the company expanded into food products with Econa and Healthya. It also continued to acquire businesses (John Frieda in 2002, Molton Brown in 2005, and Kanebo Cosmetics in 2006)

In September 2009 Kao recalled it Econa cooking oil products after it was revealed in the media that one of its ingredients becomes carcinogenic after digestion. According to the media reports, Econa contained from 10 to 182 times the amount of glycidol fatty acid esters found in regular cooking oils. Kao also removed the tokuho, or government "healthy food" designation from the product's label. Problems with the product had first been revealed in 2002, but the company did not take action until 2009, for unexplained reasons.


  1. Brasor, Philip, " Media Mix: Japanese food-safety label protects business foremost, and not people", Japan Times, November 1, 2009, p. 11.

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