At a time when store brands were struggling for recognition, Huish focused on quality and packaging to draw the attention of consumers, stating: “Private label must have quality in the product and also have packaging that looks like the national brands and that looks attractive on the store shelf.” He took pride in his employees as entrepreneurial workers. “Our success is also built upon the smart people who have worked for us,” said Huish. “I told every person who came to work for us to run their particular operation as if it were their own business and to think like an entrepreneur and not like a P&G employee. We created a fun atmosphere to work in because we created an entrepreneurial spirit among our workers.”
He started out in 1976 manufacturing his own laundry detergent, renting space in his family’s appliance warehouse. Initially selling to local church and civic groups, he went on to build Huish Detergents into a $1 billion private label business that manufactured laundry detergents, fabric softeners, automatic dishwasher powder and several other household cleaners. Initially, he felt his company’s location in the mountain region of the U.S. gave him a competitive advantage in terms of being a low-cost provider compared to his East Coast counterparts. “Being close to the source of our major ingredients was one of our key selling points,” he noted. Over time, Huish acquired private label detergent companies located in the Midwest and in the East and soon Huish Detergents had plants across the country.
By the time he sold company to Vestar Capital Partners in April 2007, Huish Detergents had become the leading manufacturer of private label detergents in the U.S. with a 90 percent market share and an impressive portfolio of retail clients including Walmart, Costco, Aldi, and Save-A-Lot, in addition to many other retail chains.