We recently bought a 100ml tube of what appeared to be Colgate toothpaste from a local tuckshop. While it looked genuine, something wasn’t quite right. The minty flavour was weak, and it didn’t leave the usual fresh feeling after brushing. A week later one of our readers sent us a photo comparing what they claimed to be a “fake” tube with a real one. Could this be true? Were we sold a counterfeit Colgate? Had the local tuckshop duped us into buying fake toothpaste? We went on a journey to find out. The results of our short online investigation were not quite what we expected.

The photo sent to us by one of our readers

Both tubes looked authentic on their own. However, placing them side-by-side revealed clear differences. To test our suspicious, we purchased a 50ml Colgate from the local OK Supermarket for comparison.

A picture of 100ml and 50ml tubes side by side

The suspect 100ml tube, from the tuckshop had several oddities. It displayed the weight in grams (147g) alongside the volume (100ml), unlike the standard 50ml tube from OK which only listed the liquid volume in mili-litres. We have not paid much attention to the units used to measure toothpaste over the years but using ml seems to make sense. The genuine-looking Colgate from OK Supearmekt had a stronger mint flavour and a familiar texture.

The differences

There were quite a number of differences with some being subtle while the others were quite obvious. Here are some differences we noticed:

  • Ingredients List: The label from the toothpaste tube from OK supermarket had a list of ingredients, which were missing from the tuckshop tube.
  • Logo Design: The OK tube had a larger blue and red logo covering the front, while the tuckshop tube had a smaller red logo with more text.
  • Sizing Information: The OK tube displayed only millilitres (ml), whereas the tuckshop tube included both ml and grams.
  • Taste and Feel: The “genuine” toothpaste from OK had a stronger, minty taste and provided a longer-lasting clean. The tuckshop tube had a slightly sweet taste, as reported by a commenter on our social media post.
  • Place of Manufacture: The tuckshop tube listed a Thailand address, while the OK tube indicated production in China.

Real or Different Markets, Different Formulas?

We couldn’t definitively determine if either tube was fake. It’s possible they were manufactured in different countries with slightly varied formulas for specific markets. Regulations on toothpaste ingredients can differ between regions. For instance, the EU might have stricter rules than other areas. While the toothpaste tube from OK Supermarket had a list of ingredients, the one from the tuckshop didn’t have a listing of these ingredients. We therefore couldn’t prove that the ingredients were different.

Verifying the Addresses: A Dead End

The Colgate tube from the tuckshop had an address that said it had been manufactured at the following address

Colgate Palmolive (Thailand) Ltd

700/362 Banga-Trad Km 57, Amphur Muang, Chonburi 20000, Thailand.

For questions and comments visit: www.colgate.co.za

We quickly visited the Colgate South Africa website and were greeted by a tube of toothpaste that looked nothing like the tube from OK Supermarket than the tube from the tuckshop. Was this because of a rebrand? It would be very easy to miss a Colgate Rebrand after all even banks change their look all the time without us even baiting an eyelid. We tried to research and find out if there had been a recent rebrand resulting in older batches carrying the old look but we could not find news of any such rebrand. This is not to say that there was no rebrand.

The address on the toothpaste tube from the tuckshop

So we turned to the address. Google Streets View covers Thailand so we decided to search for the road and see if we could find the factory. The road Bangna-Trade does exist but at the address we landed there doesn’t seem to be any Colgate Palmolive at this location. Using Google Street View we could not find any evidence of Colgate Palmolive Ltd at this location. In fact, the address of บจก. คอลเกต-ปาล์มโอลีฟ (ประเทศไทย) (The Thai name for Colgate Palmolive Co. Ltd) is at a very different address. The only other confirmation of the given address being a Colgate Palmolive factory is from dubious internet listings which appear to be taken from labels of similar tubes of toothpaste. The Roman letter spelling of the address on the label is also slightly different from the one of the Google Maps.

Colgate Palmolive (China) Co, 338 Qing Nian Road, Xin Gang Huangpu, GETDD Guangzhou, China.

Distributed by: Nigeria-Multipro Consumer Products Limited, 44 Jimah Odutola Street, Iganmu, Lagos.

Multipro Enterprise Limited appears on the listed address

Google Street View does not cover China and we couldn’t verify if there is a Colgate Palmolive factory at the Chinese addresses but Multipro Enterprise Limited appears to be a genuine company that is located at 44 Jimah Odutola Street in Nigeria. This means that at least one of the addresses given by the toothpaste tube from OK Supermarket is real. Using Google Street View you can see the warehouses owned by the distribution company.

You decide for yourself

While we couldn’t confirm if the tuckshop toothpaste was fake, it differed significantly in taste, texture, and after-brushing experience from the genuine Colgate. It is also possible it’s just a different variant of Colgate toothpaste meant for another market.

A 100ml tube of Colgate (or 147g as labelled) costs around US$1, the same price in both tuckshops and supermarkets. Supermarkets generally have stricter quality control procedures, making them less likely to sell counterfeit products. Considering the price is the same, wouldn’t you prefer the peace of mind of buying a genuine product from a reputable source? The choice is ultimately yours: potentially fake or most likely real