By Jim North
Southeast Campus Editor
They are like cheerleaders now. The Hughes do not have much to do with the company anymore, except to smile a lot and cheer people on—a nice reward for 45 years of faithful dues paid to the company they love, a legacy they would like to outlast them.
Gene Hughes is one of the original founders of the first company ever to encapsulate herbs.
Nature’s Sunshine Products (NSP) has been in business since 1972, investing millions of dollars in equipment, ultra-rigid testing, ongoing research and development—all of which ensure the utmost purity and reliability in its products for end consumers.
From targeted daily essentials, weight management solutions, high-quality vitamins and minerals, encapsulated and tableted herbs to complimentary products–NSP creates from nature, but sinks its roots deep in the world of science.
Born and raised in Bakersfield, Calif., Hughes later moved to Utah where he met his wife, Kristine, while attending college at Brigham Young University. They have been married for 55 years, have seven children and 34 grandchildren.
Originally an elementary school teacher, Hughes contracted an ulcerated condition of the stomach. His neighbor suggested trying ‘capsicum’ or ‘cayenne pepper’ to alleviate the symptoms and pain.
Hughes swallowed capsicum by the spoonful with water each morning for six months and found his ulcer mended, boosting his energy level at the same time. The result, he says, may not be the same for everyone, but it worked for him.
As a result of his personal health triumph, family gathered together and made a decision to start a company. Kristine made a suggestion:
“Why don’t you do something with the capsicum you were taking? Capsulate it and distribute it to the health stores,” she told him.
Hughes says that is exactly what they did. He still takes capsicum after 45 years, though now by the capsule, instead of the spoon—generally one or two per day.
A second product was added—golden seal, then three or four more to the growing repertoire.
The rest is history, as NSP today is a global phenomenon, manufacturing 650 health-related items.
Revenues for 2015 reached $324.7 million in 50 states and 30 countries around the world through 576,000 customers and distributors.
Listed as a 2013 Forbes Top 100 Trustworthy Companies in America, NSP is committed to stringent standards of quality, safety, purity and potency.
“If there’s anything in the product that is foreign, we send it back. Our vendors know that we don’t buy their stuff unless it’s the very best,” says Hughes.
Quality control has been a primary guide for the manufacturing operations based in Spanish Fork, Utah. Staffed by scientists, doctors and researchers, NSP stays on the cutting edge of health-related technology.
Hughes was an original ‘capsulator’ of herbs by hand. Eventually, the family pooled resources, purchasing a machine that would do the work for them. He recalls the first year sales to be in the vicinity of $100,000-$200,000 dollars.
“It started moving so fast at the beginning, that we almost went out of business, because we couldn’t keep up … [but] we were able to pull it out,” he says.
The overarching goal of the company has been to deliver health and wellness to families. Hughes is thankful for the people who have been loyal throughout the decades of their existence.
“It’s evolved to what it is today. A wonderful, wonderful company—there’s a lot of integrity, a lot of service and a lot of quality.”
Company leadership strides for and studies how their products can scientifically benefit the human body.
“We don’t use chemicals or anything like that. We scientifically prove now, through the study of our new facility (The Hughes Center for Research and Innovation) that the herbs are not just for salt and pepper on the table. They work.”
Companies who manufacture health products are inspected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to adhere with government standards.
NSP has been inspected multiple times since their inception. Hughes says the
company is not visited as often
anymore, because of the trust they have built over the years.
They say, “You’re not like other companies. You’re almost like a pharmaceutical.” Hughes quips, “Not almost. Yeah, we are like a pharmaceutical.”
At 85, Hughes is a picture of health. Besides Capsicum, a personal daily regimen for him includes Vitamin E (skin), Skeletal Strength (bone), Hawthorn Oil (heart), Golden Seal (immune), Everflex (joints), Krill Oil (Omega 3s), and more.
Three days per week of exercise and Pilates help keep him in shape and limber.
Kristine remains active in the home office at age 84. Though retired personally, Hughes says the couple stays connected through company meetings, distributor gatherings and national conventions.
He would like to be remembered as a good person, and he comments on what is most important to him in life.
“I want to be a good patriarch to my family, and I love my wife of 55 years. I want to be remembered that I smiled once in a while,” he adds.
Hughes says it is a worthy goal to render service to
others, thus helping lead people toward a higher quality of life.
As for NSP’s future trajectory, he says the goal involves helping more people do the same.
He sums up his attitude, “Be of good service to others. Make people smile. Nature’s Sunshine.”
Hughes recalls when the company started, the age of the ‘hippie movement’ in the early 70s. His family broke a barrier in the world of natural health supplementation, spawning a global phenomenon in the market place.
Since then, hundreds of companies have endeavored to follow suit and duplicate NSP’s success.
Hughes recalls saying many times, “Nature’s Sunshine built the freeway and now everybody’s going down it.”
Though larger companies exist, Hughes concludes that NSP has managed to stay on the ‘straight and narrow’ with their commitment to being the safest, most reliable and effective health products in the world.
For more information about NSP, go to