20th Annual Deli Changemakers Award Winner: Aimee Tsakirellis

Executive Vice President of Marketing
Cedar’s Foods and Brekki
Haverhill, MA

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your upbringing and how it has shaped you?

My father and his family immigrated to America from Greece in the 1970s. They had a powerhouse drive to succeed and a “do what it takes” attitude to get the job done. I recognized this for the first time when I was 5 and accompanied my father to merchandise Cedar’s products at supermarkets. I have a core memory of realizing at that young age what it meant to work for the family business and from there on made it a personal dedication to do what I could to help an American dream succeed, and eventually become a legacy. In tandem, this same family had a sincere love for food. Food was a part of our soul, something to be proud of if you were providing it, and the catalyst for almost always bringing the family together. It broke language and cultural barriers as our family grew and became our legacy as we passed down recipes and traditions to the next generations. I always knew food would somehow be a strong influence in my life, and all roads helped lead me to exactly where I am.

Q. What were some of the pivotal moments in your early life that led you to where you are today?

When I was 7, my father and grandmother brought me back to the village he was born in, Kalloni, on the Greek island of Lesvos, to see the house he was born in before he was tearing it down to be rebuilt. Even at such a young age, it was shocking to see where he came from, recognizing he was accomplishing a dream because of hard work. This is truly where the concept of working hard to achieve goals and dreams started to work its way into my life. For me, there isn’t an option to give up when the going gets hard; it just means find another solution and keep going.

Q. How has your career evolved over the years?

Cedar’s was my first job and has been my main role for the last 16 years. These 16 years have been so pivotal for the brand and company overall, and it has been incredible being a part of a family legacy through a time that we rebranded and grew to be the No. 1 brand of Mediterranean foods in the natural and organic channel in the U.S. I helped kickstart the marketing department in 2008 with barely a budget but a lot of good (and not-so-good) ideas, and I am proud to say we now have an in-office staff of four in our department, as well as a creative agency.

Q. What is the best advice you ever received and why?

Let time give you the answer. When Cedar’s was featured in Forbes Middle East Magazine, our Chief Executive Charlie Hanna shared a piece of advice with me he received from my father, Steve. This resonated with me and is something I think about often. Pausing and letting some time pass will somehow always bring an answer or solution to light.

Q. How do you balance your work and personal life?

I have not mastered this, and when you find someone who has please send them my way! Working in a family business with so many members of my family, it’s not easy to leave the hummus at the door. A rule we have in my house is no emails after 5 p.m., and no shop talk once we are in the house. We break this often, but at least we try!

Q. What deli retail trends have impacted the industry most over the last year?

In the last few years, food brands have been excitingly creative and innovative in bringing new foods from the Mediterranean to deli shelves. There are now enough Mediterranean food products, and even just dips, to create an entire section in the deli.

Q. What book, movie, or event has recently impacted you personally or professionally?

COVID-19 impacted me both personally and professionally. During this time, the need for food in our community became greater than ever. Cedar’s committed thousands of pounds of food during the pandemic. My commitment and dedication to helping serve those in need in our community became a strong part of my role at Cedar’s, and it was through the pandemic that I met so many great people and saw the hard work they do in our local communities. The pandemic also shaped me professionally as it started in the same month we were about to launch one of our largest marketing campaigns and launch a new brand, brekki ready-to-eat oats. I truly don’t think marketing has been the same since. There are so many new technologies and platforms to reach consumers.

Q. What hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?

One of my favorite things to do is cook my grandmother’s recipes for my husband, daughter, sisters and parents. It’s a way for me to still be close to her and honor the love that she had for food. I enjoy traveling home to Greece with my family. It is a very special place in my heart. I also help to run and operate a dog rescue in Greece, which is strongly supported by Cedar’s. It is a way for me to give back to the village where our dreams started.


Sign up to get the latest news in retail deli, including prepared foods, foodservice and specialty cheese markets from Deli Business Magazine...

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.