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Spicing Things Up in Jacksonville, Florida

spice tacos

Jason and Hillary McDonald, founders of Jacksonville, Florida-based FreshJax, are on a mission to transform healthy food into delicious meals.

In 2010, Jason experienced a health scare that would change the trajectory of his family’s life. “The doctors told me that I had a stomach ulcer and high cholesterol, which, if left untreated, could be life-threatening,” he said.

After receiving this unsettling diagnosis, the McDonald family committed to healthier lifestyles. That meant tossing half the food out in their refrigerator. “We only kept items whose ingredients we could pronounce and understand,” said Jason. When they examined their spice cabinet, they realized that most of the products they owned were filled with MSG, artificial flavors, and other chemicals that are harmful to the body. That’s when a lightbulb clicked. What if they could create their own flavorful spices with healthy ingredients for both their family and others to enjoy?

In 2011, FreshJax officially launched, starting out small at a local farmers market. They started with one product – a hot sauce they no longer make –  but soon grew their line over time from customer requests. Before launching FreshJax, Jason had a lucrative job in sales and Hillary worked in interior design. When they saw that FreshJax had the potential to make a difference and help others, the couple decided to obtain their MBAs and pursue FreshJax full-time.

The company now sells a selection of 45 organic spices and seasonings made from premium ingredients that are certified organic. “The farm we use has not used any pesticides or chemical fertilizers on its soil for over five years,” said Jason. “Normal spices go through radiation to rid themselves of pests, but ours go through a steam treatment instead.” While this method is more expensive, the products come out much healthier.

One of their most popular products is Rosy Cheeks, a maple bourbon BBQ rub. Unlike most BBQ rubs, which are filled with salt and MSG, Rosy Cheeks is composed of spices and crushed up maple syrup. Another top seller is their Grill Master Burger Seasoning, which can be mixed into patties and/or sprinkled on top. Their seasoning has half the amount of sodium as competitors and is rich in flavor from Himalayan pink salt.

While healthy living is an integral part of the FreshJax mission, philanthropy is also embedded in the company culture. In 2019, Jason and Hillary shifted their focus to combating childhood hunger. “So many kids don’t know when or if their next meal is coming, and every child should be able to eat,” said Jason. Since 2019, FreshJax has donated over 519,000 meals to children. Their long-term goal is to provide 50 million meals to children in need. Through their 1 Box = 1 Meal Donated program, FreshJax donates one meal for every 5-pack of seasonings purchased.

To come: A line of organic tea and coffee along with the same commitment to battling childhood hunger.


Nicolette Degrassi

Nicolette Degrassi is a Boston based food and travel blogger. When she's not traveling the world, you can find her reading the latest Book of the Month novel or trying to perfect her sticky toffee pudding recipe. Follow her adventures on Instagram @nadegrassi.


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