“As a leading consumer products company, we are deeply committed to advancing technology which can address changing consumer needs throughout the world. In fact, our goal is to use our technology to create products that will continue to improve the quality of life for our consumers wherever they live.”
-Ian Cook, Chairman, President and CEO
1aHistory and Ownership
Colgate was established in New York City in 1806 by William Colgate, the son of an Englishman who had emigrated to the newly independent America with his family only a decade or so before. The younger Colgate learned his trade with his father in Baltimore, before moving to New York to set up on his own, making "Soap, Mould & Dipt Candles", as well as PearlStarch. Soap quickly became one of the company's main lines, and Colgate began to perfume its products towards the middle of the century. William Colgate died in 1857, passing control to his son Samuel, who established Cashmere Bouquet as one of the country's leading perfumed soaps. By the early 1870s, Colgate & Company had begun to look for other products it could sell through pharmacies.
Alogical natural step forward was dental cream. Toothpaste was at the time a comparatively little used substance, other than among the wealthy. Most people used bicarbonate of soda, rubbed on by hand, but gradually individual chemists had begun to mix their own "creme dentifrice", mixing the soda with glycerine to make a paste and adding other substances as varied as chalk, borax and even sugar. Thesepastes gained popularity during the second half of the 19th century. Colgate introduced its first mass-produced dental cream in 1873, with some success. Initially it was sold in a small earthenware jar, but towards the end of the century, the company borrowed the process developed by a Connecticut dentist, Dr Washington Sheffield, to package paste in a collapsible soft tin tube, the predecessor tothe plastic tubes used today. This new packaging joined what was already a huge range of almost 3,000 products sold by Colgate, including 625 different perfumes and 160 types of toilet soap.
At around the same time, The BJ Johnson Soap Company of Milwaukee had introduced a green bath soap made from a mixture of palm and olive oils. It was initially designed to float, in emulation of Procter& Gamble's extraordinarily successful Ivory, but failed to made significant inroads into the more established brand's sales. As a result, the product was reformulated to be heavier and more exotic. It was re-launched from around 1905 as a rival to imported French toilet soaps, with an aggressive marketing campaign. This approach proved far more popular. The brand quickly established itself, andJohnson's changed its name in 1916 to The Palmolive Company. Ten years later Palmolive took over another soap company, Kansas-based Peet Brothers, best-known for its Crystal White laundry soap, and was itself engulfed by Colgate in 1928 to form Colgate-Palmolive-Peet. This was by now a substantial international company. Colgate had begun to sell its dental creams in Britain from 1908, whilePalmolive had been introduced to the country through branches of Boots The Chemist since 1913. By the end of the 1920s, the combined group had offices throughout Europe, as well as in Latin America, Asia and South Africa.
Following the Second World War, Colgate-Palmolive-Peet (as it was known until 1953) diversified into household cleaners, launching Ajax and Fab. The company also established newmanufacturing bases in Europe and the Far East, buying up local soap makers. Washing-up liquid was launched under the Palmolive brand in 1966, and by the following year group sales had topped $1bn a year. The move into pet foods came in 1976, with the acquisition of Hill's. A number of other businesses were acquired, including the Helena Rubinstein cosmetics company, but most of these were sold off in...