Sainte-Foy, summer 1968. While washing his car, Roland Arsenault, an auxiliary Quebec City nurse, had the idea of creating a soap that could be used to wash his car and the windows of his house. With the help of a chemist and a specialized company, he worked out an original formulation that would be perfected over time: Hertel Multi was born.
50 years after its creation, the Hertel brand now includes a variety of 17 different products, present in all Quebec groceries, pharmacies and supermarkets banners.
Hertel was in fact the name of the street where Mr. Arsenault lived. The same street on which, for the first few years, the cleaning product was hand-bottled in the family garage.
“Lots of people came by the house, bought a case full and gave it out to family and friends. It all started through word-of-mouth”, says Marcel Arsenault, Roland’s eleventh child and the one who took over the reigns of the company in 1977, with the help of his mother, sister and two brothers.
However, Roland Arsenault would not live to see his invention take over the market. In 1984, two years after his death, Hertel made its way onto the shelves of the largest groceries stores at that time: Steinberg, IGA, Metro, Provigo, Jean Coutu and Woolco, now Walmart. While distribution tripled, some well-known spokespeople contributed the brand’s success, as was the case with actress/singer Suzanne Lapointe, who promoted the product as “MY Hertel”.
And although Hertel has belonged to the Montreal company Lavo since 1999, Roland Arsenault’s original, secret formula has not changed. The same recipe, and same smell, can today be found in Hertel’s Multi Fresh Scent product. Many still call it “Wash and Shine”, the slogan used on the old packaging.
The journalist Alexandra Perron of Le Soleil recounts the words of Marcel Arsenault, “Every time I’m in the grocery store and I walk by the Hertel products, I stop and think. It’s quite the evolution… It’s what we call heritage.”