Japan's Kanebo Cosmetics to launch global brand Freeplus in Thailand, expand in SE Asia

22, Aug. 2019

An image of an in-store Kanebo Freeplus sales counter (Courtesy of Kanebo Cosmetics)
An image of an in-store Kanebo Freeplus sales counter (Courtesy of Kanebo Cosmetics)

TOKYO, NNA - Japan’s Kanebo Cosmetics Inc. will launch its global skincare brand “freeplus” in Thailand in September, followed by Myanmar in October, as its first step to spread the product’s exposure throughout Southeast Asia following its success in China.

Freeplus, developed out of Kanebo Cosmetics’ research on treatment of sensitive skin, is a blend of Japanese and Chinese plant extracts free of additives and low on irritation. It will be primarily marketed through Japanese-owned drugstore chains in Thailand, such as Tsuruha Drug, Matsumoto Kiyoshi and @cosme Store, Kanebo Cosmetics said in a statement on Monday.

It will target Thais in their 20s and 30s who are attracted to Japanese brand cosmetics. Freeplus will also be sold through its flagship stores on e-commerce sites including Lazada and Shopee. Its sales channels will be expanded to include local drugstores and international chain stores.

Freeplus items for sale in Thailand are of the moisture care line (facial cleaner, lotion, cream, etc.) priced at between 530 baht ($17.2) and 1,290 baht, 10-20 percent more than tax-inclusive prices in Japan, the statement said.

The rise in individual earnings in Southeast Asia has enhanced “beauty consciousness” there, Makiko Takahashi, a spokeswoman for Kanebo Cosmetics’ parent Kao Group, told NNA.

She cited data of Euromonitor International that the Thai market for sensitive skincare products rose by an annual average of 8.3 percent from 2010 to 2017. Sales of these skincare products have gained traction as Thai tourists gathered information through social media and brought home freeplus items as souvenirs after visiting Japan, she said.

The freeplus brand was introduced to mainland China in 2005 and to Hong Kong and Taiwan in 2017, and has been popularized by women concerned about sensitive skin as they particularly patronized its facial cleanser freeplus Mild Soap.

The ratio of freeplus’ overseas sales to its overall sales has risen rapidly since 2015, exceeding 80 percent in 2018. “The ratio is the highest among Kanebo cosmetics,” the spokeswoman said. In October, freeplus will be put on the market in Myanmar through a local agency.

In Thailand, Kanebo Cosmetics has also been selling the “Kate” brand mainly at drugstores since 2002 and the “Kanebo” brand mainly at department stores since 2016.

Kao Group aims to chalk up sales in the cosmetics business worth more than 300 billion yen ($2.8 million), 25 percent of them overseas, in 2020. Thailand is positioned as the group’s key market for its size.