Saying Goodbye to Tom: Thoughts on “Natural” Brands

This week I decided to delve into the world of couponing again.  I spent a good amount of time on the We Use Coupons (WUC) forums where, clearly, I made a beeline for the Organic & Natural threads.  Part of me still wishes I hadn’t.

Let me back up and say that over the past few years I’ve done the best I can to shop locally + seasonally.  I’m a big believer in supporting small, local business, partially because I am one, but also because I believe they tend to be better run and more conscious (or at least the small, local companies I buy from).  I know that some of “my brands” are owned by mega -corporations and conglomerates but I choose to buy their products because they are the best priced lesser of two evils.  Muir Glen is a great example of this.  Despite being owned by General Mills, I continue to “buy” their products for two reasons: 1) they have BPA-free cans and 2) I can usually get their products for free or, at least, less than $0.50.  Ideally I would buy only BioNaturae and Eden’s Organics but as a grad student, and even last year as an entry-level worker, that wasn’t part of the budget, especially not when I use canned diced tomatoes as much as I do.  One last side note, the reason I’m so picky about BPA-free tomatoes and not beans is because the acidity of the tomatoes causes more of the chemical to leach than other foods.  And because I can usually get Goya beans for about $0.50/can.  <–dried beans are still FTW though!

Anyway, while perusing the WUC last night, I stumbled upon this article which talks about 13 mom-and-pop natural companies now owned by mega-corporations like GM, Clorox, and Colgate.  Many of them I was aware of, Tom’s and Burt’s Bees included, but some I was not.  <–aka Lightlife!  =(  The one that disturbed me the most, however, was Tom’s.  Yes, I knew they weren’t independently owned.  But I hadn’t realized that a somewhat recent redesign was responsible for a huge product change…and a whole lot of outcry.

Old school toothpaste…still in the aluminum tubes!

You see, each of the highlighted companies features and article dealing with the merger.  While I highly recommend the Burt’s Bees one, it was the Tom’s one that struck a chord.  Reading through the comments I realized that when I first bought Tom’s in 2009, I hated it.  It tasted so friggin disgusting but somehow my mouth felt so damn clean.  It was flavored only with real mint oils and took a couple of days to get used the lack of sweetness but once I did, I never looked back.  I haven’t used “regular” toothpaste since, with the exception of a handful of trips where I used my hostess’.  As a side note, when I do use “regular” toothpaste, I get a buildup of gobbly goop in my mouth overnight.  I know, real scientific.  😉  

Nowadays, though, the Tom’s is like a special treat, especially when compared to the Trader Joe’s which I used for almost a year straight (for price reasons).  When that stopped making me feel clean, I made a deal with myself that I could buy the Tom’s when I could get it for less than $3.00.  It isn’t special for this reason though, especially considering I can get that price almost always, but because it tastes so damn good compared to the comparatively lackluster TJ’s brand.  Reading through the comments made me realize that things have changed…and I can’t help but think that it isn’t for the better.

That being said, I was hesitant to write about this topic for two reasons.  Firstly, Tom’s still leaves a whole lot of  cr*p out of their products and is committed to sustainable practices, as the above image shows.  They are doing far more than most companies to give back and make a difference in this world.  Secondly, it is really only because of the Colgate buyout that I can purchase Tom’s just about anywhere from CVS to Trader Joe’s.  And herein lies my biggest struggle with natural products.  The very reason hippies are no longer sequestered in communes, living off the land and a handful of communal shops is because “natural” has become mainstream.  <–maybe a gross exaggeration but you get my point  I hate mega-corporations because many of their actions go against almost everything I believe in, especially science and health, which they seem to laugh at and ignore in the name of higher profits.  After all, who cares if the scientific world basically accepts as fact that ingredient x is toxic if getting rid of it means we’ll make less?  But a part of me is also thankful that they have allowed me to incorporate more natural and sustainable products into my everyday life and my student budget.  I think my shopping habits wholly reflect this conundrum and it is likely more my being torn over this issue than price that shapes my them.

Right now (at 3 am), I’m feeling very torn about whether I will buy Tom’s again.  I don’t like that they went and changed something that didn’t appear broken.  While admittedly I have no clue what went on behind the scenes, the fact that their blog post includes nothing about an environmental, healthy, or sustainability reason for the change, I am going to assume that it was less than consumer-minded.  Additionally, it does not appear that Tom’s responded to the numerous concerns expressed by formerly loyal customers who were disappointed, outraged, and just plain hurt.  There is this recent blog post that seems to talk around the issue…but, to me, it isn’t enough.  For now I think I’ll wait to see if I can snag an amazing deal with the coupons I currently have and, if they expire before that, I will share the love and go back to the Trader’s brand or another independently-owned, natural brand such as Kiss my Face or Jason* if, and when, I can snag them for a similar price.

Want more information on “who owns organic”?  Here’s a great master list. as well

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  In the comments tell me, how do you solve this conundrum?


Kait xo

*Edited to add: Here I was thinking I was safe with Jason…apparently they, along with just about every other mainstream organic/natural company, are owned by Hain Celestial.  See the full list here.

8 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to Tom: Thoughts on “Natural” Brands

  1. Ugh, I hear ya!
    I stopped buying Tom’s awhile ago, actually to be truthful, I don’t know if I ever purchased tom’s. By the time I began to change my “ways” to be more healthful, I found the Natural Dentist brand on iHerb.

    Then when I needed more, I compared TJ’s brand ingredients to Tom’s, & didn’t like what I saw, so I chose TJ’s, which isn’t perfect, but I found it better than Tom’s.

    Also, I recently had my own surprise disappointment with a so-called small brand myself. I have been purchasing Avalon Organics shampoo, finding it worked really well for my straight, limp hair. I was disappointed to just learn a few days ago that they are owned by Hain. sigh. Not cool!

    Now you have me wondering if Natural Dentist is owned by someone else too. I’m going to have to dig further, but I did find this article. Not a normal fan of Natural News, but the brands they list might be something to look into

    I never heard of the We Use Coupons site, and it looks amazing! oh dear, I could get lost with all that reading. It will be great to curl up with my iPad and just browse! Thank you!!!!

    Good luck!

    • I saw Avalon too when I checked out JASON…I was shocked! Its such a hard line to straddle and that is what I wanted to get at here…is it really ok or not or only sometimes? Good luck with WUC…I’ve been procrastinating on there for the past two days! =/ And let me know about Natural Dentist. 🙂

      • I found out that Natural Dentist is owned by Revive Personal Products Company, whose main company is Caldwell Consumer Health, LLC.

        I also found that gave them a 3.2 out of 10 rating
        but not sure how much credibility I give goodGuide since they rate Tom’s a lot higher.

        it’s still a bit confusing. If you find any more info, please post. sigh. I dunno. Frustrating.

        I really try to refrain from supporting any big companies, but yes, there may be times that you just can’t get away from it.

        It’s a slow process to “switch” – Right now, I’m working on getting away from commercial dishwasher detergent. I found a recipe online, and it suggests adding ascorbic acid in the form of unsweetened lemon kool-aid. Would you believe I couldn’t find it at my local grocery!?

        So, I had to put off my homemade recipe, and buy one more box of Cascade.

        BUT I am proud of myself for canning and freezing enough tomatoes to hopefully not have to buy any more Muir Glen cans. That was a big step, in the path of baby steps, baby steps.

        We can only do our best with the budget we have. Sometimes you have to give in.

      • WOW you did awesome with the tomatoes! My next thing that I really want to do is homemade coconut milk yogurt because I’ve been eating it up lately (I miss Greek yogurt more than any other dairy product, yes even cheese if you can believe that!). I hope that one day I’ll be canning and whatnot but in the meantime, I’m going to accept the imperfection of life and continuing doing the best I can. I tried gardening in pots this year but it didn’t really workout except for a handful of tomatoes…and the basil plant I’m trying to nurse back to life currently. *fingers crossed*

        I usually use Trader Joe’s laundry detergent and around the house its mostly vinegar and baking soda although I do keep Method all purpose cleaner on hand for quickie freshen-up scrubs.

      • oh making yogurt is on my list too. Someday.

        Good luck with the basil. I’ve always had bad luck with basil, LOL. but it did better when I started bringing the basil pot inside at night, as I think beetles were eating during the night hours. I also think I water too much also. So much to learn!

        My tomatoes in pots did ok, but they didn’t flourish as well as what was in the ground. again, I think I watered too much and didn’t “feed” enough perhaps.

    • ❤ In an ideal world, I wouldn't. But given that I can get some of those brands for free (or practically so), I can't say no to that right now. Its definitely a hard balance to strike and ideally one day I'll be a vegetable-canning and flour-milling diva. For now, I do my best!

      Also, and this is off topic but I feel you will appreciate it, I actually lost the Tom's coupons I mention en route to the store the next day. Universal Intervention? 😉

    • Funny you should mention Hain and Arrowhead Mills. I swore off all of their products, and would you believe I bought the cornmeal on sale a few days back at WF. I couldn’t resist!

      Kait, I think that was total intervention about the Tom’s coupon!

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