I like Tom’s toothpaste, but like so many other products, the parameters that make the product what it is seem to change every six months. In a previous story, I showed how Tom’s had simplified their design from Serif fonts and difficult-to-produce imagery to mostly sans-serif, less wording and less graphics on the front of the tube. But now they’ve gone to plastic tubing instead of metal tubing – which I preferred – and they’ve gone from 6.0 ounces to a 5.5 ounces per tube.
It’s frustrating to watch as products attempt to look the same and offer less for the same price in an attempt to hide their increasing production costs. I wonder how much it costs them to retool their production line for the smaller size container or when going from metal tubing to plastic. Someone who works for ‘Tom’ probably told him he could still make a reasonable margin if he reduced the size of the product, changed the container and changed the labeling.
Tom’s is a niche market, so when I buy it, I’m already paying a premium for what I thought were values worth paying extra for: fluoride-free and a metal tube. Some of it’s still fluoride-free, but many of their products now contain fluoride. And just recently, it’s no longer in a metal tube.
I got curious about Tom’s in general, so I posted some questions on their contact page. I hadn’t heard back in a several days, so I called instead. I was directed to their press person, who suggested I email, when I called her phone number. I still have not heard back from her, but have since heard back from the customer feedback form I filled out earlier. These are my questions along with the answers from Cameron Wilson, Citizen’s Advocacy Representative:
- Q: Is your toothpaste still made in Maine? A: Yes
- Q: Is the new laminate tube BPA-free? A: Yes
- Q: Was the old aluminum tube BPA-free? A: Yes
- Q: Does Tom still work there? A: No
- Q: Why did you go from 6.0 oz. to 5.5 oz?
- A: When we switched to laminate plastic tubes, we had to install a different production line. Tube specifications were different for that line. Many formulas decreased in volume, some increased in volume, and some stayed the same.
- Q: The fennel doesn’t taste like fennel anymore in the plastic tube. Have you changed the formula?
- A: Feedback: the formulas have not been changed.
The product should taste just the same. If you have one that tastes different,
I can collect it back for testing if you like.
The reply was courteous, but to the point. When I went to the local store to confirm whether any toothpaste sizes had increased, I could not find any that were larger than 5.5 oz. Perhaps some that are now 4.7 oz. were originally smaller portions. I cannot be sure, since I’ve only been watching my preferred flavor. I compared Tom’s with other toothpastes and found that Tom’s is at a relatively competitive pricepoint for similar fluoride-free non-mint, non-berry-flavored pastes.
The parameters by which we choose a product often come down to availability, craftsmanship and cost. But there are sometimes products we choose for other reasons, and we go out of our way to find them. After looking closer at their website, I’m beginning to see that perhaps
products aren’t just about what they make, but also about the company’s
ideals. The product is made in the US, so it’s providing jobs to
people in the country where I live. I like that. That the tubes are BPA-free tells me
they really care about their product. There are not many companies that offer fluoride-free, mint-free toothpaste that doesn’t taste like artificial strawberry or cinnamon flavor and isn’t in kid’s packaging, so I’m glad for those options. I am not impressed by explanation of the the reduction in size and find myself frustrated that more often than not, products get smaller in size for the same price. Lastly, in all fairness, ‘Tom’
defends his reasons for going to the plastic tube rather well.
After lining up the pros and cons, I’m staying with the product, but I’m also researching similar products that may better meet my preferences.