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2024 Star Women in Grocery Award Winner Spir Marinakis (Q&A)

Senior-Level Star
2024 star women
Spir Marinakis

Spir Marinakis

VP of Food Safety, Quality Assurance, Technical Services & Sanitation
Maple Leaf Foods 

What are some of your career highlights/?

My 20-plus-year career has spanned two great companies, Unilever (foodservice) and Maple Leaf Foods. At Unilever, I was in marketing for several years; I won two Global Innovation Awards in Food Service for Lipton Tea and Soup turnkey solutions. I also created and executed a customer-focused R&D strategy that improved customer insights and speed to market. 

At Maple Leaf, I facilitated an executive team that did root-cause analysis and recovery initiatives for the Listeria recall of 2008. With my team and colleagues, I set up Maple Leaf’s quality management system and new FSQ [Food Safety and Quality] performance metrics. I revamped and led the implementation of our food safety strategy and roadmap, prioritizing preventive solutions. 

What’s the secret to staying with the same company for 20 years and counting?

For me, it’s all about forming relationships with the exceptional people I work with daily and those I depend on during challenging periods. The genuine people I’ve worked with over the years who share similar values have been pivotal in my journey with Maple Leaf. I’m deeply committed to our company’s success and take great pride in our dedication to our safety promise and living by our values. It’s this passion and pride that have been behind my 20 years with Maple Leaf.

What was the biggest challenge in your career and how did you overcome it?

Early in my career, I was eager to stretch myself by getting my Six Sigma Black Belt certification. After many weeks of training, I was excited to be given my first project that involved liaising with many functions and various leaders at multiple levels. In the end, the project was not a success. At first, I thought this may have a big impact on my career. But instead, I used it as an opportunity to grow and learn from the experience and to become a better leader. I still reflect on the lessons learned many years later. 

How would you describe your leadership style?

My leadership approach is characterized by a strong emphasis on collaboration and teamwork, a deep passion and genuine enthusiasm for the work, a commitment to transparency and a focus on accountability.

Best career advice you’ve received? 

“Strong leaders figure things out. They are resilient. They collect the facts, seek advice and get on with it.” This advice serves as a constant reminder to tap into my inner strength, persevere through challenges and seek guidance from those around me.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I cherish spending time with my family. You can also find me in the kitchen trying new recipes—I thoroughly enjoy experimenting with sourdough bread-making. And when I can, I love relaxing at the cottage with a good book. 

Anything else to add? 

While I am honoured to receive the Star Women in Grocery Award, I am fortunate to be surrounded by an exceptional team, a very supportive leader and outstanding colleagues. This recognition is not mine alone; it reflects the collective effort and support of many.

Click here for the full list of 2024 Star Women in Grocery award winners.

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