Kao USA Inc. has introduced a new product line designed for natural hair textures, Wakati, the first entry into the category for the company. Wakati was developed to answer the question, “Why are there not more effective hair care formulas specifically designed for natural, Black hair?”

Best known for its iconic Jergens, Bioré and John Frieda brands, the company tasked its research and development team with the challenge to develop a hair care brand that would meet the specific needs of textured hair, and after five years, the first product in the collection has launched, Wakati Water-Activated Advanced Conditioner ($12). The conditioner was designed to address three key consumer concerns: high tendency to tangle, difficulty gaining curl alignment (which helps with achieving curl definition), and difficulty maintaining curl alignment.

“We knew we had a stellar formula, one that would deliver against the needs of modern women who embrace the natural hair movement,” said Kenya Foy, U.S. Marketing, Wakati. “For an audience traditionally overlooked by mainstream brands/products, we asked ourselves how we could create a product collection that would truly enhance the lives of our consumers and decided the best way was to go to the source–consumers with highly textured hair.”

Unique to the brand’s development, Kao USA leveraged its internal connections at various Historically Black Colleges and Universities to enlist the help of business students from Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University (FAMU), to collaborate on the brand ideation, marketing and packaging design. This first of its kind partnership for Kao USA, the collaboration with the college proved to be invaluable. The name of the brand, for example, Wakati, means “time”, and was selected as a direct result of the partnership and symbolizes how generations use natural hair to connect with their ancestry.

“The faculty and students are truly an outstanding group of individuals who got to make their mark on creating a brand that will meet a true need state,” said Kenya. “This is only the beginning. We plan on expanding our partnership with FAMU in the future as well as expanding our support to other HBCU’s across the country.”

In addition to the conditioner, three other products round out the line: Wakati Sulfate-Free Shampoo, designed to detangle and condition stands; Wakati Oil-Infused Cream, meant to lock in moisture and hydrate curls; and, Wakati Re-Activating Conditioning Mist which aims to hydrate and refresh curls. All products retail for $12 each.

The four-product line will debut in Target and on Target.com, Walgreens and Walgreens.com, and on Walmart.com this month, followed by Rite-Aid in May.