As the world fills up with industrial products, all the same, all spit out by factories in third-world countries, handled by workers who work for a pittance—the surviving traditionally-produced goods take on a greater meaning. Portugal has many of these traditional products ranging from ceramics to toothpaste—and now you can buy them online.
I first tried Couto Toothpaste (invented in 1932 by a pharmacy manager) in the Lapa Palace hotel in Lisbon, who offered a tray of traditional products in its impressive marble bathrooms. The formula, logo, and packaging has remained the same since 1932. It’s odd, you know, using a vintage product. You seldom think about toothpaste and resign yourself to using a mass marketed commercial product. Well, you don’t have to. Then again, if you want to avoid products that are tested on animals and fluoride, Couto might be for you.
The new site is A Vida Portuguesa and it has a fine English translation. The online store is here. There’s more than toothpaste, of course. You can get a real orange toilet paper, not to mention pencil boxes, embroidery and ceramics.
Perhaps you should buy something handcrafted. You never know when it will be the last one.
In any case, here’s a movie that’ll get you thinking: Ode to a Toothpaste, about Couto and mass produced products in Portugal.