Colgate-Palmolive to Buy Tom’s

BOSTON Colgate-Palmolive said it would expand its line of oral healthcare offerings by buying Tom’s of Maine, a maker of “natural” toothpaste, for $100 million. The purchase is part of Colgate’s strategy to increase its focus on oral hygiene products.

Colgate will get 84 percent of the privately held company, with founder Tom Chappell and his family retaining the rest. Chappell will stay on to run the Kennebunk, Maine, company, which employs about 200 people. The firm also makes mouthwash, floss, deodorant, soap and shaving cream.

While Tom’s products do not contain artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colors, flavors or animal ingredients, they do contain something even more alluring to Colgate: greater profit margins.

“With gross profit margins a full 10 percentage points higher than Colgate’s margin, Tom’s of Maine is a logical acquisition as we continue to prioritize our global oral and personal care categories,” Colgate President Ian Cook said in a statement.

The statement continued: “The U.S. market for natural oral and personal care products is valued at $3 billion and growing at 15 percent per year. Tom’s of Maine is the No. 1 oral care brand in the natural category.”

ACNielsen, however, said that last year the combined sales of all oral hygiene products at supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchandise retailers (excluding Wal-Mart) was $3.2 billion. Last year Colgate spent $115 million on measured media and Tom’s of Maine spent $6 million, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

In a statement, Tom and Kate Chappell said they chose to partner with Colgate “because they have the global expertise to help take Tom’s of Maine to the next level.” They called Colgate “an excellent fit with our own cultural values.”