When Jean Hurteau launched his Candiac, Que.-based bath and body-care chain 15 years ago, mixing and bottling his own ingredients with the help of his wife and brother, he did it with an audacious goal in mind: global expansion. Today, Fruits & Passion boasts $100 million in system-wide sales, boutiques in 14 countries and even the Quebec government as a key shareholder. You could say he’s met his goal and then some.
Hurteau’s work has been cut out for him since the beginning. His idea of manufacturing, distributing and retailing all-natural products made with fruit extracts, plants and roots was hardly new, and heavyweights such as The Body Shop and Crabtree & Evelyn already dominated the best retail real estate. To avoid a quick death while aiming for a quality image, he first got on the shelves of high-end department stores, such as Eaton’s, Neiman Marcus in the U.S. and Harrods in the U.K. By 1994, the Fruits & Passion line could be found in retailers in more than 10 countries, giving Hurteau the exposure and capital necessary to open his own boutiques abroad. “I was determined to show the industry there was a place for a new player,” he says. His stores can now be found in far-flung locales, including Switzerland, South Korea and Japan, many developed through master-franchisee licences sold to established entrepreneurs with solid retail experience and proven financial resources. And Hurteau’s quest to dominate foreign markets got easier last year, when the Quebec government purchased a 30% stake in the firm, providing a fresh injection of growth capital.
Competing at a global level can be daunting, but Hurteau believes he has what it takes. “There’s always a risk,” he says, “but when you’ve got a good plan combined with good people in good locations, success is almost assured.”