Colgate-Palmolive Co. said Tuesday that it was buying Tom's of Maine, the leading maker of natural toothpaste, which used to tweak big toothpaste makers for putting artificial additives such as saccharin in their products.
The $100-million cash deal for privately owned Tom's of Maine, which got its start in 1970 by producing a phosphate-free laundry detergent, reflects Colgate's strategy of focusing on the higher-margin oral and personal-care businesses.
Tom Chappell, founder of Tom's of Maine, said neither his company's business philosophy nor its quirky toothpaste flavors such as fennel, apricot and orange-mango would change.
Colgate said the purchase of 84% of the Kennebunk, Maine-based business was expected to close in the second quarter. The Chappell family will keep a 16% stake.
Chappell said Tom's, with annual sales of about $50 million, would maintain its product formulas and be managed as a stand-alone subsidiary.