Jack Aronson

Founder, Chairman and CEO of Garden Fresh Gourmet in Ferndale. Garden Fresh Gourmet is a nationwide retailer of gourmet salsas, hummus, chips, and dips. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, Garden Fresh was born when Aronson's restaurant was struggling and he decided to try making salsa. When Jim Hiller asked Aronson to produce it for Hiller's Market, the salsa varieties were an immediate hit. With more than 400 full-time employees, Garden Fresh has annual sales in excess of $100 million. Garden Fresh also manufactures and produces salsa, hummus, chips, and dips for Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Foods. Garden Fresh recently invested in high-pressure processing, or pascalization, a method of sterilizing and preserving foods with pressure instead of preservatives. Garden Fresh philanthropic efforts include a grant to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center for blood disease research as well as ongoing support for the Children's Hospital and Boys & Girls Club, where Aronson is a trustee. The company also donates used tortilla chip oil to the Michigan Technical Academy, where it's converted to biodiesel fuel for buses. Aronson also has been involved in relief efforts in Haiti, including visiting and helping in person. He also mentors local entrepreneurs and has invested in the Just Baked cupcake shop and bakery company. In 2007, Aronson was named Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year in the marketing and consumer products category. The salsas have won several awards, including the Fiery Food Challenge and Scovie Awards.

WHERE BORN: “Detroit.”

MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSONS: “My wife – she's the hardest working person I've ever known. She helped take over the product while I went out and delivered the product. No one has been more influential than her.”

LAST BOOK READ:Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.”

WORDS THAT DESCRIBE ME: “Energetic and a dreamer.”

WHERE MY FIELD/INDUSTRY IS HEADED: “My industry is headed towards greater emphasis on food safety. Of course, there have been bad outbreaks from produce, but more retailers are demanding certification, and we are certified. It makes us a better company.”

FAVORITE TECHNOLOGICAL GADGET: “Our high pressure processing machine that puts 87,000 pounds of pressure on a food product and makes it last up to five times longer than normal.”

FAVORITE PLACE: “Pinellas Trail in Florida. It's a bike trail and it's 38 miles long.”

FAVORITE HOBBIES: “Softball. I play on a couple of teams – we travel all over the country. We've been to Cuba, Barcelona, Spain, and other countries.”

FAVORITE FOOD: “Middle Eastern.”

MY HIDDEN TALENT: “I come up with some of my best ideas while sleeping or in bed.”

HOW I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED: “Giving back. This community has been great to us and our company. We produce everything right out of Ferndale.”