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Major brands Shiseido's rivals not washed up

Shiseido's rivals have attempted to counter the new front-runner by releasing new products or increasing advertising.

In March, Unilever rereleased an old product under a new name. It distributed samples to consumers asking them to compare the glossiness of their hair before and after use.

Procter and Gamble promoted its leading product, Pantene, highlighting the product's effectiveness for repairing damaged hair.

Kao increased the number of its TV commercials by 10 percent from the previous year.

Industry watchers warned long-term changes in the market can only be seen after summer, when the effectiveness of the new products have been evaluated by customers.

A spokesman from Kao said that because shampoos and conditioners are a necessary item, a big seller can play an important role in shaping a company's image.

In 2001, Kao lost its top spot in the shampoo market to foreign company Unilever, which in turn led to increased competition.

Although the shampoo market is valued at about 200 billion yen annually, it has been growing at a sluggish pace because of fierce price competition and the popularity of repackaging.

Shiseido's elevation in the market will intensify the scramble for market share.