Colgate-Palmolive Company
Type Public (NYSECL)
Industry Personal products
Founded 1806
Headquarters New York City, New York, U.S.
Key people Ian M. Cook, CEO
Revenue increase US$15.3 billion (FY 2009)[1]
Operating income increase US$3.73 billion (FY 2009)[1]
Net income increase US$2.29 billion (FY 2009)[1]
Total assets increase US$11.1 billion (FY 2009)[2]
Total equity increase US$3.12 billion (FY 2009)[2]
Employees 36,002

Colgate-Palmolive Company (NYSECL) is an American diversified multinational corporation 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, William Colgate, himself a soap and candle maker, opened up a starch, soap and candle factory on Dutch Street in New York City under the name of "William Colgate & Company". William Colgate in 1833 suffered a severe heart attack stopping his business from selling. But after a couple of years of recovery he continued with his business. In the 1840s, the firm began selling individual cakes of soap in uniform weights. In 1857, William Colgate died and the company was reorganized as "Colgate & Company" under the management of Samuel Colgate, his son, who did not want to continue the business but thought it would be the right thing to do. In 1872, Colgate introduced Cashmere Bouquet, a perfumed soap. In 1873, the firm introduced its first toothpaste, an aromatic toothpaste sold in jars. His company sold the first toothpaste in a tube, Colgate Ribbon Dental Cream, in 1896. In 1896, Colgate hired Martin Ittner and under his direction founded one of the first applied research labs.[4] By 1908 they initiated mass selling of toothpaste in tubes. His 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 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".[5] At the turn of the century Palmolive, which contained both palm and olive oils, was the world's best-selling soap. Extensive advertising included The Palmolive Hour, a weekly radio concert program which began in 1927 and Palmolive Beauty Box Theater which ran from 1934 to 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 fierce 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 started putting fluoride in its toothpaste. But that didn't stop Colgate. In the beginning of television, "Colgate-Palmolive" wished to compete with Procter & Gamble as a sponsor of soap operas. Although the company sponsored many shows in part, they fully sponsored the serial The Doctors.

George Henry Lesch was 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 U.S., 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.[6]

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

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

In June 2007, counterfeit Colgate toothpaste imported from China was found to be contaminated with diethylene glycol, and several people in eastern U.S. reported experiencing headaches and pain after using the product.[7] The tainted products can be identified by the claim to be manufactured in South Africa by Colgate-Palmolive South Africa LTD, they are 5oz/100ml tubes (a size which Colgate does not sell in the United States) and the tubes/packaging contain numerous misspellings on their labels. Colgate-Palmolive claims that they do not import their products from South Africa into the United States or Canada and that DEG is never and was never used in any of their products anywhere in the world. The counterfeit products were found in smaller "mom and pop" stores, dollar stores and discount stores in at least four states.[8]

Educational and community involvement

In 1890, Madison University in New York State was re-named Colgate University in honor of the Colgate family following decades of financial support and involvement.[9]

The Colgate-Palmolive Company has sponsored a non-profit track meet open to women of all ages. This event is called the Colgate Women's Games. 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.

Environmental record

The Ethical Consumer Research Association once recommended that its readers do not buy Colgate because of its use of animal testing, though this is no longer the case. has rated Colgate a 5.5 out of a possible 20.[10] However, the company has made important steps and according to PETA "in March 1999, Colgate-Palmolive established a moratorium on animal testing for adult personal care products (this includes deodorants, shampoos, fragrances, and shaving creams)."[11]

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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14]

Corporate governance

Current members of the board of directors of Colgate-Palmolive are: John T. Cahill, Jill Conway, Ellen Hancock, David W. Johnson, Richard Kogan, Delano Lewis, J. Pedro Reinhard, and Stephen I Sadove.

Chief Executive Reuben Mark retired July 1, 2007. Ian M. Cook, President and CEO, replaced him.

Employment diversity

Colgate-Palmolive was named one of the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" in 2004 by Working Mothers magazine.


Liquid soap Palmolive

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.


In the U.S., the company operates approximately 60 properties of which 15 are owned.[16] 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; 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 76 are owned in over 70 countries.[16] Major overseas facilities used by the Oral, Personal and Home Care segment are located in Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, France, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, Thailand, Venezuela 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. and Poland.[16][17]


The iconic hand on the Palmolive dishwashing soap label belongs to Elizabeth Barbour. The image is a highly illustrated photograph taken in 1985 when the Colgate-Palmolive Company updated the image and hired Barbour who was a hand model with the Ford Agency in New York City.


  1. ^ a b c Colgate-Palmolive Company (CL) annual SEC income statement filing via Wikinvest
  2. ^ a b Colgate-Palmolive Company (CL) annual SEC balance sheet filing via Wikinvest
  3. ^ "Legal/Privacy." Colgate-Palmolive. Retrieved on June 26, 2010.
  4. ^ edited by Maxine N. Lurie, Marc Mappen (2004). "Encyclopedia of New Jersey". Rutgers University. Retrieved January 3, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Colgate-Palmolive Company History: Creating Bright Smiles for 200 Years". Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  6. ^ "Colgate-Palmolive Sells Detergents to Phoenix Brands". PROMO Magazine. July 13, 2005. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  7. ^ "Toothpaste recall expands". ABC News 7. Monday, June 18, 2007. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  8. ^ "Counterfeit Colgate toothpaste recalled". MSNBC. June 14, 2007. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  9. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana. The Encyclopedia Americana Corporation. 1918. 
  10. ^ "Company information : Colgate-Palmolive Co". Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  11. ^ "Ask Carla". Ask Carla. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  12. ^ "Settlement Clears Way for Continued Funding of New Jersey Superfund Cleanup". Market Watch.{2C4F8D20-474F-4A56-9037-3618ABF01B9C}. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  13. ^ "Colgate Palmolive Company -". Knowmore. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  14. ^ "Colgate-Palmolive plant in Morristown goes green". WBIR. 3/7/2008. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  15. ^ "Colgate buys Sanex from Unilever for $940 million". Reuters. March 23, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-17. 
  16. ^ a b c "Colgate-Palmolive Company 2007 Annual Report". 2008-03-26. Retrieved 2009-02-26. [dead link]
  17. ^ "Colgate-Palmolive opens Morristown toothpaste plant". Knox News Sentinel (E. W. Scripps Company). February 28, 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2009. 

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