Vice President of Operations - Americas
Stephanie Lopez, Vice President of Food Safety Services Americas, joined AIB in July 2000. Over the last two decades in the food industry, she has led quality, sanitation, and product development teams for various international food companies. At AIB, she has held various roles in inspecting, auditing, education, and innovation. Lopez is recognized internationally in the food industry as an enthusiastic trainer and a prolific author of technical publications.
As Vice President, Food Safety Services Innovation, she was part of a global executive leadership team and stood out as a technical thought leader in the area of food safety, provided research in emerging food safety issues, spoke at key industry events, and contributed to technical publications. Some key contributions include leading microbiology research studies (first validated kill step for the baking industry), launching new products and offerings based on industry needs, and establishing AIB’s first formal process for innovation. As Vice President, Food Safety Education, Lopez led a team of skilled trainers and was recognized as a finalist for the SQF Training Center of the Year award in 2012. During her time in this role, she also implemented several new courses in supplier verification, FSMA, GFSI, internal auditing, and the cost of quality. Outside of AIB, Lopez’s career flourished as she led sanitation, quality, and product development teams across a variety of categories including dry milling and blending, bakery, and beverage.
Lopez is involved with several industry associations and community groups and is an active member of the International Association of Food Protection (IAFP) and the Technical Working Group on Food Safety Auditor College Curriculum Committee. She has authored numerous articles for high profile industry publications including QA and Food Safety magazine and Snack Food and Wholesale Bakery magazine. Lopez demonstrates leadership outside the office by participating in a number of volunteer activities that support students in the areas of math, science, and business.
Lopez’s commitment to education shows in her own continued education throughout her career. She earned a bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology from California State University, Northridge. She also obtained certification as an instructor and auditor for BRC, SQF, and FSSC 22000. She has attended numerous training programs, including: PoS leadership program for women, HACCP train-the-trainer, executive Spanish camp, HACCP for juice processors, BRC train-the-trainer, lead auditor training, and Better Process Control School.
One-on-One with Stephanie Lopez
How do you describe your leadership style and personal business philosophy?
The keys to success are being open and honest, relaying a consistent message, challenging objectively, respecting individuals, and, most importantly, having fun! Life is too short to be all work and no play. I hope that my time at AIB will make this an exciting and desirable place for employment.
Additionally, my vision for the food industry is for all its stakeholders to have a balanced perspective. There cannot be a single event (such as an audit) that ensures food safety. Food safety results from a combination of many factors including food safety culture, educational programs, technical expertise, inspections, and audits. While these are all measured during a certification audit, the key is to continue to invest in them all year long.
What have been the most defining moments for you as your career progressed?
I can think of several! My first job in the food industry for sure. When I got my degree, the food industry wasn’t on my radar, but I was seeking a better quality of life in a new city and a spice company was hiring for a microbiologist. And I haven’t looked back!
My first opportunity to work for AIB was another defining moment. I learn something new every day from the industry itself, the processes, the people, and the international cultures. My mentor, Dr. Cliff Pappas, played a key role in helping to shape my career. He taught me so much more than technical food safety knowledge. He gave me a business mindset and taught me how to mentor and teach others. Of all the people in my career, I have learned the most from working with him. I would also consider Andre Biane, President and CEO of AIB, as my current mentor.
Moving to Manhattan, KS to take my first leadership role at AIB was another defining moment. It was then that my career focus became less technical and more business-focused.
How do you describe your leadership style?
I consider myself to be a participative leader. It is important for me to be knowledgeable about the activities that my team is doing from both an operational and technical standpoint. I also greatly value the input from my team and seek out their insights. Accountability and recognition are two sides to the same coin. I hold people accountable, but recognize their accomplishments.