Tom’s of Maine, the widely known Kennebunk-based producer of all-natural personal care products, has moved its research and development department to its parent company in New Jersey.

The shift resulted in the “difficult but necessary” elimination of seven positions, according to company spokeswoman Susan Dewhirst.

“The move builds on a successful ongoing partnership between the new product development teams in Maine and Piscataway (New Jersey) and represents a long-term investment in innovation behind Tom’s and a focus on more rapidly bringing new natural products to market,” she said in an email.

Piscataway, N.J., is home to the research and development arm of consumer products giant Colgate-Palmolive, which in 2006 bought an 84 percent stake in Tom’s of Maine for $100 million. Tom and Kate Chappell, who founded the company in 1970, own the remaining 16 percent.

The seven employees who were laid off will have the opportunity to apply for similar jobs in New Jersey but would have to relocate.

Tom’s employs about 150 people at its headquarters in Kennebunk and its manufacturing facility in Sanford, where the company produces dozens of products, including soap, toothpaste, deodorant and mouthwash. The company has made a name for itself in part because of its commitment to avoiding any ingredients that are chemically derived, have a negative environmental impact, or are tested on animals.

Dewhirst said despite the layoffs, Tom’s continues to invest in Maine.

“Over the last several years, we’ve made major capital investments to our manufacturing facility in Sanford,” she said. “While change can be difficult, this expansion helps strengthen the company for growth over the long term and helps us bring more of our high quality natural products to people who love Tom’s and the stores they shop in across the country.”

Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell