Laboratoires Colba

Natural health, beauty and body products based in Quebec
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Forrest Lancaster

Laboratoires Colba in Saint-Laurent, Quebec, has been producing quality natural health products since 1983, when Joseph Bassili, President and CEO, started the business with four partners – including his father. Joseph purchased the company in 1995 and has been the sole owner ever since.

With a staff of around 75 people, the company has three distinct trademark logos, The Root of Life, Innovation and Alpen Secrets, distributing throughout Canada, the United States and overseas, as well as operating an Internet service provider business, Colba.Net. The Root of Life produces and distributes natural health supplements, Innovation is a producer of hair care products and Alpen Secrets is a line of bath and body products including soaps, salts and more.

“We export Alpen Secrets to the United States and many overseas countries,” says Joseph. “Innovation and The Root of Life are centered in Canada.” We presently own and operate out of our 60,000-square-foot building. It is not by any means a small business. We are right on the Trans-Canada Highway and our facility is fully integrated. We do some of the manufacturing, all the selling and all the shipping. We ship to distributors’ warehouses as well as direct to store. Our products are sold through major pharmacy and grocery chains, including Wal-Mart and Jean Coutu as well as online by Amazon.com and drugstore.com.”

Between relationships with distributors and retailers, Laboratoires Colba covers a broad market footprint. “We have six in-house salesmen and our sales manager who calls on head offices,” Joseph adds. “We also have four salespeople that take care of marketing and sales outside of our team.”

A growing product line

In order to keep the business booming, Joseph strives to hire motivated people with good salesmanship. “We want people who are thinking outside the box and are loyal,” he says. “Many of our staff members have been here for a decade or more. After many years they start to think more creatively and they get to know their buyers. This makes it easier for them to foster relationships with our customers.”

Joseph says one of his favorite aspects of the business is coming up with new products and expanding his market share. “I have a good team and our employees are motivated,” he explains. “Our goal over the coming years is to be No. 1 in Canada for specialty bath products. We have been dominating the Quebec hair treatment market for years.”

As far as product innovation goes, Joseph says that Laboratoires Colba has introduced a number of new products in recent years. The Innovation line’s Blue Shimmer is a very popular shampoo product geared toward men and women with light blonde and white hair. The distinctive blue tint of the product helps to cut back on brassy and orange tones in bleached hair while natural ingredients keep strands soft and shiny.

The company’s The Root of Life brand offers a unique product line, catered specifically to the Quebec market. “Our Ultra Enerforce ampoules are an energy supplement,” says Joseph. “Each vial contains specifically chosen herbs, vitamins and minerals, including ginseng, spirulina and echinacea. We have a filling machine and we manufacture that line in-house. We import the glass ampoules from France and manufacture the liquid product that goes inside. For this brand we also have tablets and capsules, which we outsource for production. We develop all the formulas in-house, take care of the licensing, quality control, packing and marketing.”

Joseph says the company’s Alpen Secrets brand is constantly cranking out new products and continues to introduce new on-trend scents. “The more popular new products have been our bath salts and foam baths,” he elaborates. “Eucalyptus is in style right now and Epsom salt is big these days. In terms of ingredients, Argan oil is also very popular. Goat milk in foam bath and soaps is another very popular active ingredient.”

With a strong and growing product line, the business has recently been selected by Accès pharma at Wal-Mart as the Top Supplier for 2014 in the Quebec Wal-Mart pharmacies.

Looking ahead

As Joseph and his team continue to forge ahead, the next generation of owners is learning the business. “We are a family business,” he explains. “My father, Elie Bassili, is 97 and still comes in to work three days a week. I’m 67 and I’m here every day.”

“My son, Jean Paul Bassili, has a bachelor’s in computer programming and an MBA,” Joseph continues. “He takes care of Alpen Secrets. My daughter, Muriel Bassili, did her masters in pharmacology and has her MBA. Her husband, Bruno Girodias, has a Ph.D. in computer engineering and MBA and together, they both manage the company started by my father in 1966 in depilatory wax products. This was our first business.” Joseph says there are grandchildren too, but at 4 and 2 years old they are too young to learn the ropes just yet.

Over the coming years the family will continue to work together to promote all of the company’s lines. Joseph predicts a steady 10 percent growth looking ahead as Laboratoires Colba continues to produce some of Canada’s most popular natural products.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Fragrance Oils (International) Ltd.
Fuller Landau LLP/SENCRL
Pure Extracts
TLP