Colgate Palmolive Company
Traded as
Industry Consumer goods
Founded 1806 (1806)
Founder William Colgate
Headquarters 300 Park Avenue
New York City, New York, United States
Area served
Key people
Ian M. Cook, CEO
Products Cleaning agents
Personal care products
Revenue Decrease US$16.034 billion (2015)[1]
Decrease US$2.789 billion (2015)[1]
Decrease US$1.384 billion (2015)[1]
Total assets Decrease US$11.958 billion (2015)[1]
Total equity Decrease US$-299 million (2015)[1]
Number of employees
37,900 (2015)[2]

The Colgate-Palmolive Company is an American worldwide consumer products company focused on the production, distribution and provision of household, health care and personal products, such as soaps, detergents, and oral hygiene products (including toothpaste and toothbrushes). Under its "Hill's" brand, it is also a manufacturer of veterinary products. The company's corporate offices are on Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City.[3]


1922 advertisement for Palmolive soap

In 1806 devout Baptist English immigrant soap and candle maker William Colgate established a starch, soap, and candle factory on Dutch Street in New York City under the name "William Colgate & Company". In 1833 he suffered a severe heart attack, stopping his business' sales; after a convalescence he continued with his business. In the 1840s the firm began selling individual cakes of soap in uniform weights. In 1857 Colgate died and the company was reorganized as "Colgate & Company" under the management of his devout Baptist son Samuel Colgate, who did not want to continue the business but thought it would be the right thing to do. In 1872 he introduced Cashmere Bouquet, a perfumed soap. In 1873 the firm introduced its first Colgate Toothpaste, an aromatic toothpaste sold in jars.[4] In 1896, the company sold the first toothpaste in a tube, Colgate Ribbon Dental Cream (invented by dentist Washington Sheffield). Also in 1896, Colgate hired Martin Ittner and under his direction founded one of the first applied research labs.[5] By 1908 they initiated mass sales of toothpaste in tubes. William's other son, James Boorman Colgate, was a primary trustee of Colgate University (formerly Madison University).

1915 magazine ad

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the B.J. Johnson Company was making a soap entirely of palm oil and olive oil, the formula of which was developed by B.J. Johnson in 1898. The soap was popular enough to rename their company after it - "Palmolive".[6] Around the start of the 20th century Palmolive, which contained both palm and olive oils, was the world's best-selling soap. Extensive advertising included the radio programs The Palmolive Hour (1927-1931) and Palmolive Beauty Box Theater (1934-1937). A Missouri-based soap manufacturer known as Peet Brothers merged with Palmolive to become Palmolive-Peet. In 1928, Palmolive-Peet bought the Colgate Company to create the Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Company. In 1953 "Peet" was dropped from the title, leaving only "Colgate-Palmolive Company", the current name.

Colgate-Palmolive has long been in competition with Procter & Gamble, the world's largest soap and detergent maker. P&G introduced its Tide laundry detergent shortly after World War II, and thousands of consumers turned from Colgate's soaps to the new product. Colgate lost its number one place in the toothpaste market when P&G added fluoride to its toothpaste. In the beginning of TV, Colgate-Palmolive wished to compete with P&G as a sponsor of soap operas and sponsored many soaps in full or in part including The Doctors.

George Henry Lesch, president, CEO, and chairman of the board of Colgate-Palmolive in the 1960s and 1970s, during that time transformed it into a modern company with major restructuring.

In 2005, Colgate sold the under-performing brands Fab, Dynamo, Arctic Power, ABC, Cold Power and Fresh Start, as well as the license of the Ajax brand for laundry detergents in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, to Phoenix Brands, LLC as part of their plan to focus on their higher margin oral, personal, and pet care products.[7][8]

In 2006, Colgate-Palmolive announced the intended acquisition of Tom's of Maine, a leading maker of natural toothpaste, for US $100 million.[9] Tom's of Maine was founded by Tom Chappell in 1970.

Today, Colgate has numerous subsidiary organizations spanning 200 countries, but it is publicly listed in only two, the United States and India.

On October 25, 2012, the company announced it would cut 2,310 workers, or 6% of its workforce, by the end of 2016 in a push to make the consumer products company more efficient.[10][11]

Educational and community involvement

In 1890, Madison University in New York State was renamed Colgate University in honor of the Colgate family following decades of financial support and involvement.[12]

The Colgate-Palmolive Company has sponsored a non-profit track meet open to women of all ages called the Colgate Women's Games.[13] The Colgate Women's Games is the nation's largest amateur track series open to all girls from elementary school through college. Held at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute, competitors participate in preliminary meets and semi-finals over five weekends throughout January. Finalists compete for trophies and educational grants-in-aid from Colgate-Palmolive Company at New York City's Madison Square Garden in February. For more than 20 years, the company supports the Starlight Children Foundation which is a non profit organization dedicated to help seriously ill children and their families. The mission is to help children to cope with pain, fear and isolation through entertainment, family activities and education.(2012)

Ethical record

The Ethical Consumer Research Association once recommended that its readers not buy Colgate because of its use of animal testing, though this is no longer the case. In 2011, Colgate-Palmolive was one of the first companies recognized by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) under the new "working for regulatory change" category for companies that test on animals only when mandated by government regulations and are actively seeking alternatives to animal testing.[14] This relates to the corporation's decision to continue to participate in the profitable Chinese market, where some animal testing is still a regulatory requirement.[15] Other ethical companies have chosen to decline entry to this market.[16]

In 2006 Colgate-Palmolive acquired an 84% stake in Tom's of Maine.[9][17]

In 2011 the company chose to retain the use of the antibacterial agent triclosan in its market-leading Total toothpaste range, despite withdrawing it from several other product ranges, following concerns about triclosan's impact on health and the environment.[18]

Environmental record

Products of the Colgate-Palmolive company, specifically "Total" brand toothpaste contain triclosan. This ingredient has a questionable impact on waterways and marine life.

Colgate consumes approximately 0.2 percent of the combined palm oil output of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand,[19] the cultivation of which is known for environmental impacts on a global level including: deforestation, loss of natural habitats of critically endangered species, and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Colgate-Palmolive, as a successor to The Mennen Company, is one of about 300 companies held potentially responsible for hazardous waste at the Chemsol federal Superfund site in Piscataway, New Jersey.[20] Their involvement in this site may have contributed to the contamination of an estimated 18,500 cubic yards (14,100 m3) of soil with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), PCBs, and lead off-site. A proposed $23 million agreement with the government and state of New Jersey would require Colgate-Palmolive and the other involved companies to pay for the cleanup of this hazardous waste that is contaminating the soil as well as the groundwater.[21] The company completed a LEED Silver certified manufacturing plant in Morristown, Tennessee in March 2008 which was the first of its kind in the U.S. The new LEED silver certified plant in Tennessee produces the Colgate Total toothpaste.[22]

Colgate Palmolive received the 2012 Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award.[23]

Anti-competitive practices

Colgate Palmolive was fined by Autorité de la concurrence in France in 2016 for price-fixing on personal hygiene products.[24]

Hill's Colgate (Japan)

In November 2016, Hill's-Colgate (Japan) Ltd. announced it will change its name to Colgate-Palmolive Japan Ltd. in 2017. It is setting up an assembly plant in Japan. The 50,000 square feet facility will support 50,000 jobs and be finished by 2018.

Corporate governance

Current members of the board of directors of Colgate-Palmolive are:

Employment diversity

Colgate-Palmolive was named one of the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" by Working Mother magazine.[25] The 2012 Human Rights Campaign "report card" on American businesses gave Colgate an A for its support of diversity in the workplace.


Colgate now markets a broadly diversified mix of products in the United States and other countries. Major product areas include household and personal care products, food products, health care and industrial supplies, and sports and leisure time equipment.

Discontinued products and former brands

Cherish toothpaste logo
Cherish toothpaste box


* While detergent brands continue to be manufactured and sold by Colgate-Palmolive in some countries, in the United States they have been sold to another company, Phoenix Brands, and are no longer made by C-P in the U.S.[44] In May 2015, Colgate-Palmolive sold its Australian laundry detergents and pre-wash brands to Henkel for US$245 million (€220 million).[45] Colgate-Palmolive has divested its laundry detergents business in Colombia, which was in turn acquired by Unilever and some Asian countries, which was acquired by Procter & Gamble.[46]

** Still being made by Colgate-Palmolive internationally, but no longer available in the U.S.

*** While still bearing the Colgate name, Octagon bar soap is now manufactured by Columbus Washboard Company.

Vintage commercials for many of these discontinued C-P products can still be seen on YouTube.


In the U.S., the company operates approximately 60 properties of which 14 are owned.[47] Major U.S. manufacturing and warehousing facilities used by the oral, personal and home care segment of Colgate-Palmolive are located in Morristown, New Jersey (previously the headquarters of the Mennen company prior to their 1991 buyout, and still HQ of the Mennen division); Morristown, Tennessee; and Cambridge, Ohio. The pet nutrition segment has major facilities in Bowling Green, Kentucky; Emporia, Kansas; Topeka, Kansas; Commerce, California; and Richmond, Indiana. The primary research center for oral, personal and home care products is located in Piscataway, New Jersey and the primary research center for pet nutrition products is located in Topeka, Kansas.

Overseas, the company operates approximately 280 properties of which 80 are owned in over 70 countries.[47] Major overseas facilities used by the Oral, Personal and Home Care segment are located in Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, France, Guatemala, India, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, Thailand, Venezuela, Vietnam and elsewhere throughout the world.

Colgate-Palmolive has closed or is in the process of phasing out production at certain facilities under a restructuring program initiated in 2004 and has built new state-of-the-art plants to produce toothpaste in the U.S., Mexico and Poland.[48][49]

Colgate-Palmolive's chief manufacturing plant is located in Burlington, New Jersey, producing all of the fragrance and flavor oils for the company's facilities around the world.


The iconic hand on the Palmolive dishwashing soap label belongs to Elizabeth Barbour. The image is an illustration of a photograph taken in 1985 when the Colgate-Palmolive Company updated the image, hiring Barbour, then a hand model with the Ford Agency in New York City.


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