Mary K. Wagner is a recognized executive leader and board director with a reputation for creating innovative products, managing risks, handling corporate crises, and managing food quality and safety. She is a strategist, an operational leader, and a team builder who has been an executive in branded global retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies. She has created growth through consumer-facing innovation and brand building. Mary is known for her ability to engage people around a common goal. She has a history of transforming organizations, building departments from scratch, and creating an R&D culture of innovation. She has significant experience in managing crises and risks around food quality and safety. She has built strong relationships with CEOs, with boards of directors, and with external stockholders, suppliers, and industry colleagues. She has served in significant leadership roles on industry and non-profit boards of directors.
Mary is president of M.K. Wagner and Associates, global food science management consulting firm specializing in R&D strategic leadership and innovation. In December 2016, she retired from Starbucks Coffee Company as Senior Vice President of Global Product Innovation, Food Safety and Quality where she was responsible for creating global food and beverage products for Starbucks’ retail, food service and consumer packaged goods. She headed basic research, the innovation process, equipment engineering, packaging, sensory, quality, food safety risk assessment and regulatory, as well as new Retail Concept exploration. Her contributions have helped Starbucks be recognized as Outstanding Corporate Innovator in 2014.
Mary previously worked at Mars, Inc. as General Manager of Mars Botanical, a manufacturer of food supplements sold through retail and internet channels. She has also served as Chief Technology and Quality Officer at E&J Gallo Winery, the largest winery in the world. Reporting to Gallo’s CEO, she created their first Global Technology and Quality function, launched an innovative and unique consumer sensory mapping process for wines, and stimulated a wave of beverage product innovation.
As Chief Technology and Quality Officer of Taco Bell, Mary created a new product platform for all of their restaurants and was the point person to manage the company’s response to the highly publicized genetically modified corn crisis in 2000. Mary began her career as an executive in the food and nutrition area of General Mills as VP of R&D and Quality/Regulatory Operations at Gorton’s Seafood.
Throughout Mary’s career, she has worked closely with corporate boards of directors. She has developed a reputation for creating a culture of innovation in each company where she has served. She is highly experienced in handling corporate crises arising from food safety and quality issues.
Mary is well-known in the food industry. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Griffith Foods International, a $1 billion private developer and manufacturer of food ingredients. Among her many board directorships, she has served as President of the Institute of Food Technologists and Chair of the National Grape and Wine Initiative. She was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture as Co-Chair of the USDA Advisory Board on Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics.
She is currently on the board of Washington STEM, with focus on attracting more girls into STEM careers. She has also been a director of the national board of Girls, Inc., the regional board of the Salvation Army and the board of SUSTAIN (Sharing Science and Technology to Aid in Improvement of Nutrition). She has been a commencement speaker and frequent speaker to industry and university groups. She is the Recipient of several awards for her leadership in food, nutrition and innovation. Mary has a Professional Director Certification from the American College of Corporate Directors, a public company director education and credentialing organization and is a graduate of Harvard’s Management development Program. She has a BS and MS from Iowa State University and a PhD from the University of Minnesota.