Connecting the world with colour: the story behind Duha Group’s success

Do you ever feel blue, or green with envy? Have you ever ‘seen’ red?

There’s a reason these feelings – sadness, envy, and anger – have become associated with certain colours, and it’s because colour plays a powerful role in our day-to-day emotions. It can change moods, reduce tension, cause excitement, and even soothe crying babies.

So, unsurprisingly, one of the most debated questions when it comes to do-it-yourself consumers is what colour to paint the walls, whether a nursery, kitchen, or master bedroom. It’s an important choice, as although individuals react differently to colour, there is no denying the strong link between colour and our emotions. Such decisions include a trip to the hardware store to pick up a few paint samples, then comparing the swatches and shades, before making a final judgement. Just imagine how difficult this colour-choosing process would be without paint samples to display the colour.

As a global leader in the production of colour marketing materials, Duha Group (Duha) is well positioned to make the colour-choosing process possible, but also simple! Tailored towards companies needing to display their products’ colour range with a high degree of specificity, Duha specializes in colour strategy, matching, mass reproduction, and system management.

The company works largely with clients in the decorative and industrial paint sector, but its customers also include cosmetics, home décor, and automotive companies. Originally known as Duha Printers Western Ltd, the business has a rich history of generational change and is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2023. Rick Duha, Chief Business Officer, joins us to shed light on the company’s production capabilities, as well as its history and global development.

“Our focus is to connect the world with colour, so we produce a range of tools, including paint swatches for retail stores, colour brochures with real paint swatches embedded within the pages, and architect kits to showcase a full colour range in a portable solution,” begins Rick. “However, our most popular product is traditional fandecks; sleek, portable collections of a broad spectrum of colours, arranged in a certain sequence. Painters, designers, and architects mainly use these, as fandecks enable them to carry an entire range of samples in a single, easy-to-use item.”

He goes on to explain the formation of the business: “My great-grandfather installed a commercial offset press in the basement of his family home to kickstart the business in 1948. We then experienced growth in the commercial printing market and opened our first manufacturing facility in Winnipeg, Canada. Over that time, we built a close working relationship with local paint companies, printing labels for their paint cans and other marketing materials.”

Niche services

The same local paint manufacturer then gave Duha an opportunity it could not refuse; to provide them with paint colour samples. Unaware that this would soon become its prime business, Duha took a risk in opening an additional facility in Gimli, dedicated to the production of its now well-known colour swatches. Using a proprietary manufacturing method known as stripe coating, the plant catered to this new area of the business, while its original site in Winnipeg remained concentrated on commercial printing.

However, Rick recalls: “It became clear that the commercial print market was oversaturated, whereas very few companies were serving the paint sampling sector. So, by the time the third generation of the

family – my father, uncle, and aunt – joined the business in the late 1970s, we had moved away from the commercial print business to focus on our niche of delivering colour selection tools and services.”

Global network

Having established a niche, the company then focused on international expansion, first opening a US facility in 1992, quickly followed by entering Australia, South America, and Europe. It also formed strategic partnerships with local colour tool manufacturers in Singapore, China, Mexico, and Germany in the early 2000s. “We have deliberately chosen to partner with like-minded, family-run companies across the globe, which has enabled us to grow our global footprint and customer base, while maintaining unique local cultures in each of our facilities,” Rick details. “Today, we have the largest network of manufacturing facilities in our industry, serving thousands of customers across 130 countries.”

Creative agency acquisition

With a vision to further expand its product lines, Duha acquired a UK creative agency, Colour Hive, which focuses on colour forecasting, design, and consultancy around colour selection and application in various industries. “Colour Hive is focused on the early stage of our process, identifying the macro trends that will influence colour preferences worldwide, several years in advance,” he elaborates. The division also has its own membership program, sharing expert predictions and insights with members, as well as a quarterly publication, MIX Magazine.

Turning to the family side of the business, Rick faces the challenging, yet exciting task of navigating Duha through its fourth generation. “I have worked in the company full-time for 15 years now, but I practically grew up around it my entire life,” he explains. “The only constant at Duha is change, and our vision is to be better every day. Our Duha Center of Excellence teaches us to make one improvement every day in each department, meaning there are constantly new ideas to improve our processes and ways of working.

“To facilitate continuous improvement, we use a Huddle system, which allows each department to present ideas for workplace initiatives, techniques to make jobs easier or ways to enhance our efficiency,” Rick expands. “Since we launched the Huddle system in 2006, our staff have generated thousands of improvement ideas. I believe this is a powerful tactic because ideas come directly from our employees on the ground, instead of from the manager’s desk.”

Bringing the conversation to a close, Rick reflects: “Seeing our business adapt, grow, and flourish over the last 75 years is an honor and a testament to the many amazing team members that have helped us survive and thrive over this period. My grandfather’s decision to concentrate on the small niche of colour selection tools and services was instrumental in facilitating our long-term success.

“In terms of the future,” he concludes, “we will continue to focus relentlessly on leading the market in terms of operational efficiencies and investment and maintain our position as the global leader in colour marketing tools and services.”