The Spearmint Oil Crisis of 1958

You really have to be an old timer to remember the original yellow Ipana toothpaste. It was not only a sickly yellow in color, but it was also full of bubbles. The single reason that it sold so well was that it had a delightful, almost candy-like, spice-mint flavor. As a child, I liked it so much I would eat some direct from the tube.

Colgate Dental Creme has always been a smooth, white paste; and when Gleem entered the market, it was also smooth and white, Ipana felt it had to change. Studies must have shown that its unattractive appearance was hurting sales because it soon appeared as a smooth, white paste, too. But now it had a wintergreen flavor. We guessed its scientists had been unable to correct the bubbling and coloring due to the spice components.

When I was assigned both the dentifrice and flavor development groups for the Toilet Goods Division of Procter& Gamble, I set a goal in my own mind to have a gang formulate a spice-mint flavor as good as old Ipana which would not cause the paste to bubble or turn yellow. But my first years in that job were fully occupied with Crest development, and it was not until 1956 that we had time to work on a spice-mint Gleem.

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