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The Interview: Kao's Vice President of Consumer Care EMEA on driving growth in the region

Sophie Smith
04 July 2024

Kao Corporation plans to double its Consumer Care Business in the EMEA region by 2030, a plan that continues to be overseen by Michael Cramer, Vice President for Consumer Care EMEA, who took on the role two years ago. 

In this interview with, Cramer speaks about the success of the Consumer Care brands in the region, his progress since taking on the role in 2022, and his plans for future growth, underpinned by the company's global strategies.

Having been with Kao for more than 18 years, Cramer started as a Sales Director in Germany before gaining international experience in roles such as General Manager for the Netherlands and now as Vice President for Consumer Care EMEA, where he is responsible for a variety of beauty brands such as John Frieda, Curél and Bioré, as well as Australian tanning brand Bondi Sands, within the region.

"At Kao, we are a very lean organisation with flat hierarchies. This is what I love about my job. Even though I am leading the business in the region, I am still very close to the individual markets, the management of our Consumer Care brands and our people." he says.

During his time as Vice President of Consumer Care EMEA, Cramer has worked alongside other regions to help establish a strong base for the company's global Win in Skin strategy. As part of this, Kao aims to accelerate its growth in the skincare category.

Curel Kao

"In the field of skin healing, the launch of Curél in the UK has been extremely successful, and we are now working on launching Curél into other EMEA markets," explains Cramer, while outlining his other achievements and ambitions for the Consumer Care division.

"With the launch of Bioré UV, we also successfully entered the skin protection category, and with Bondi Sands, we will build on this success and leverage the potential behind the growing skin protection segment with its compelling UV and self-tanning range."

Kao acquired Bondi Sands last year, further supporting its goal to become a global leader in the skin protection category while establishing a firm position in the suncream and self-tanning markets. Using its UV care technologies in the Japanese market and self-tanning technologies in the US market, the company plans to bolster both Bondi Sands' global business portfolio as well as its own business growth.

"Bondi Sands is pivotal for our Global Sharp Top strategy and strong focus on skincare globally, but especially our Win in Skin strategy in the AEMEA Consumer Care Business," highlights Cramer.

Bondi Sands

"Our clear focus lies on keeping up the current strong growth rate of the brand; we want to continue this growth and are working closely with our local organisations to achieve this. When Kao acquires brands, we do this very naturally and carefully to support our brands in their continued growth and evolvement and use our vast development resources to bring our knowledge and expertise into the new business to support this and in the same magnitude learn from their high agility and leading-edge way of digital communication.

"In addition to the integration of the Bondi Sands teams in Australia and the US, we have actively engaged in incorporating the Bondi Sands operations into our EMEA Consumer Care Business organisation in the UK, forming one joint organisation."

Alongside the robust distribution expansion of Bondi Sands across EMEA, coupled with strong further growth in the UK, Cramer plans to also boost business for fellow beauty brand Bioré, including its expansion into new channels and markets within the EMEA region.

He is also further building on Kao's strong position in haircare within the region, sharing: "Over the past years, we had very successful launches for our John Frieda brand, which has helped us defend our position as the leading premium haircare brand.

"We have been able to build a very strong and talented team across the EMEA region. We have brought global brand management and R&D for John Frieda home to Europe, where the main John Frieda markets are. We have also successfully integrated the Bondi Sands team into our UK organisation and have established an expert team to support our Win in Skin growth strategy. Both teams are led by two excellent and talented female leaders, Karen King and Wendy Brown."

So, how important is the UK market for Kao? The fact that it's one of the company's biggest markets in the EMEA region, next to Germany, might give you a clue.

"From an overall business perspective, we should not forget that the UK is not only the home market of our renowned cosmetics brand Molton Brown but also our haircare brand John Frieda. Both brands have their strongest footprints in the UK," says Cramer.

"With the acquisition of Bondi Sands, we have almost doubled the size of our Consumer Care Business in the UK too. Bondi Sands is the market leader in self-tanning and furthermore the fastest-growing brand in the sun care category in the UK, which is also the biggest Bondi Sands market in the region and an instrumental growth driver for our Consumer Care Business.

"These brands have a great portfolio that addresses current trends in haircare and skincare, as well as the needs of our UK consumers, whether it's high-performing haircare, sun protection or safe tanning products."

As he looks to the future, Cramer, alongside the wider Consumer Care team, will continue to work towards Kao's global growth strategies.

"Having identified the skincare category as pivotal catalyst for future growth, the strategic focus involves expanding within the skin protection category, offering consumers solutions to heal and protect their skin from external environmental factors, while establishing a firm global presence in the sunscreen and self-tanning markets. This is why Bondi Sands, Curél and Bioré are our clear focus," he shares.

"In addition, we are exploring new brands that align with this strategic direction, reinforcing our commitment to excellence in skincare.

"But despite the focus on skincare, one should not forget that haircare is our core business, and with John Frieda global product development and brand management now located in Europe, we will see an exciting new initiative pipeline over the coming years too."

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