Food Industry Game Changer
High-pressure processing leads to fewer preservatives and a longer shelf life.
Jack and Annette Aronson have been making news for the past several years with their many business and charitable ventures. As founders of Garden Fresh Gourmet in Ferndale, the Aronsons sold this business and continue to work for the new owners, the Campbell Soup Company.
They have recently started Clean Planet Cuisine and, in 2015, they were honorary chairs for the 18th annual networking and awards luncheon benefiting Jewish Vocational Services. Since chairing the JVS luncheon, they have been busy creating literacy opportunities for children in Ferndale and Hazel Park as well as other Detroit areas.
The latest Aronson endeavor is the much-anticipated Great Lakes HPP (high-pressure pasteurization) facility in Taylor. The grand opening celebration was held in March and featured chefs and foods from all over the Detroit area and tours of the new high-pressure processing plant.
Together, with the assistance of Carol Jackson of Ferndale and consultant help of friend Sid Rubin, formerly of Circus World Toy chain and KB Toys, the state-of-the-art food processing facility was introduced to a curious crowd.
Great Lakes HPP houses high-pressure processing technology that is revolutionary in the food industry. Using only cold water and intense pressure, food producers can make fresh products with longer shelf lives without adding any preservatives. This increased shelf life gives retailers the ability to expand their distribution regionally, nationally and even globally without any loss of quality to the food products.
Formerly a distribution site for Aronson’s Garden Fresh products, the 35,000-square-foot space now houses the new Great Lakes HPP line. Aronson’s ambition is to purchase the entire 250,000-square-foot building owned by Palmer Moving and Storage with the help of Paul Ross of Ross and Associates. Aronson hopes to turn it into a major food center in Michigan.
The site currently has enough space for four HPP lines, but initially Aronson has installed a single line with a maximum capacity of 70 million pounds of food a year. According to Aronson, this is the biggest machine of its type in the world. With four loading docks and an enormous walk-in cooler for storing food, Great Lakes HPP line can do small and large runs.
Only five of the 125 big machines worldwide exist in the U.S., with only two in Michigan, but Great Lakes is the only one available to service other food distributors.
Foods that are a good fit for HPP include soups, prepared food, juices, dips, guacamole and lunch meats. Aronson reports that it is not good for bread.
The Aronsons have their sights set on the bigger picture they see developing in the food industry. With clean, all-natural, artisan foods growing in popularity, consumer demand is on the rise for fresh produce, deli and dairy products. Small food companies creating this type of product will lead Michigan’s food processing ability in the next five years, they say.
While Garden Fresh Gourmet has its own HPP processing machine, Great Lakes HPP now handles its overflow. Drought Juice company is another customer. Founded and operated by four sisters in Detroit, Drought is the leading certified USDA organic juice brand in the Midwest. It is the first to market in Metro Detroit and has its sights set on national expansion. Originally having only a three-day shelf life, with HPP, Drought now enjoys a 45-day shelf life. Not only do its juices remain fresh longer, but they are also now selling the safest unpasteurized juice.
The Aronson’s new meal company, Clean Planet Cuisine, is also using the high-pressure processing. Their first customer is Costco. Specifically, they are working with Costco’s chicken pad Thai ready-meal plate. This is the first and will likely lead to more ready meals from Costco.
“This is a game-changer for food companies that need a longer shelf life to distribute their products without fear of spoilage and pathogens,” Aronson says. “This will really help many companies in our region to become national players. They can sell all over the country.”
Great Lakes HPP is testimony to Aronson’s prediction that demand for HPP will grow.
“We want people to know what we are doing,” Aronson says. “Companies really want to keep their label clean — no preservatives — and they need a way to do that. People want to know about their food, what exactly they are eating, and we think HPP is a real advantage. There is no downside.”