Passion was a word used liberally by Warsi back in 2001. It still peppers her conversation, despite the inevitable business challenges that have tested her in the intervening years.
Warsi's tale from her birth in India in 1956 to her subsequent marriage to GP Talib and successful ready meals business in the UK is hardly a rags to riches story, but it demonstrates a single mindedness and sense of purpose that is clearly special. She spotted a gap in the market and launched a business making authentic Indian food at a time when the concept wasn't even on most Brits' radar.
However, today's consumer is far better informed, more worldly and more demanding of new and exciting tastes. On top of this, today's food has to be healthier with lower levels of fats, salt and sugar, constituents that have traditionally been central to great-tasting ethnic food. All this makes life far more challenging.
"What I didn't want to do was compromise on the wow factor and the taste," says Warsi, regarding the recent focus on the nutritional profile of food. "It was a very big challenge, but I was really proud of my team; working together we made that happen."
And describing today's better-informed public, she says: "The fascination with food has seeped through from the foodies and cooks to the general consumers." She adds: "And it is great for us because it means they have become a lot braver and are willing to try new things, which gives me the licence to try new things." Warsi cites Asda Hyderabadi Chicken, Lamb Biryani and Kofta Curry as examples of products launched over the past year.
Not only must products appeal to the changing tastes of shoppers, they must also fulfil the business needs of S&A's primary own-label retail customer, Asda. No easy task, given the conflicting demands of price constraints to meet the challenges of the economic climate and rising ingredient costs.
I was left in no doubt at the start of the interview that the three things Warsi wanted to get over were, first, how proud she was of the multicultural team she has built around her; secondly that she would never compromise on quality; and lastly that innovation would continue to be her lifeblood.
While recognising the crucial contribution of her team, Warsi is also convinced that much of her success can be attributed to her Indian origins and the influences of her family – her mum in particular who inspired her passion for food. "She is still obsessed with the taste and quality of food and I think I picked that up," says Warsi.
She also speaks of the Indian "solution mentality". This has been applied to everything from seeking alternative ingredient supplies when price rises became unacceptable; through process efficiency gains to reduce waste; to product re-engineering to reduce cost without damaging quality or taste. "There are certain things you can do without diluting the wow factor," she notes.
So, what has changed about the business over the past 11 years? Evidently it hasn't been an entirely smooth ride.
That much can be gleaned by comparing the firm as it was when we first met and now. At our first meeting, S&A Foods had a turnover of around £80M, employed some 1,300 people and was experiencing meteoric growth, with plans to open a new factory the following year at Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Today, S&A Foods has a turnover of around £70M, employs around 600 people and the new factory was never opened. The reasons? According to Warsi, the lower turnover is the result of dropping some business "because of margin pressure".
And the Newcastle-under-Lyme factory didn't go ahead "because we found ways of investing in our factory [to raise efficiency] rather than spreading our operations into two different locations". One suspects this isn't the whole story. But it's as much as she is prepared to divulge.
Notably, in 2004 Warsi regained total control of S&A Foods, buying back the remaining shareholding from venture capital firm 3i, which had invested in the business in 1991 as part of a management buyout following the collapse of former shareholder Hughes Food Group the previous year.
While her husband, Talib, has now retired as a GP and is no longer directly involved in the business (he was sales and marketing director), her son Sadiq has taken on a "commercial role". Her two brothers also work for the firm, as does her nephew.
So it is still very much a family concern with Warsi at the helm. But she likes to think the family connections extend to S&A's other employees, many of whom have been with the firm since it first started in the mid 1980s.
Asda remains S&A Food's biggest retail customer, but it also serves the foodservice sectors, with clients such as 3663. It also does regular business with French frozen food retailer Picard and has plans to expand its business on the continent.
Inevitably, S&A Foods has had its ups and downs with Asda over the years, but given the extent to which it depends on the multiple, it has been important to work through any differences.
"We live in a tough economic situation," remarks Warsi. "It's about working with your customer, with trust and transparency and honesty to say 'well this is the situation, how do we solve it?' But you have to have a reasonable amount of return, otherwise you are not able to invest in the business, invest in your people you can't grow your category."
S&A has accrued a host of top food honours over the years for quality, innovation, health and safety and training. Warsi has also been recognised personally with honorary degrees, numerous business and civil awards including a CBE in 2002 to add to her MBE received in 1997.
Being innovative is as important today as it ever was for S&A Foods. Working with her team of development chefs, Warsi remains closely involved in new product launches.
She also stresses the importance of the role of modern computer systems and technology in ensuring food safety and raising production efficiency. S&A has the flexibility to try out new dishes in small batches of 100kg for limited distribution while enabling them to be scaled up to 1,000kg production runs if they prove popular.
So where to in future? Unlike her husband, Warsi is clearly not ready to hang up her apron, sit back and enjoy the fruits of her labour. (Reportedly, she has a net worth of around £70M.) "What has changed is my vision," she says, which was "to excite and delight the whole nation with great-tasting food". "Now, my vision is to excite and delight the whole world with great-tasting Indian food."
But her interests and passions extend well beyond the business itself. She is currently involved with London-based organisation Everywoman, which is dedicated to the advancement of women in business, a subject about which she is passionate. And she also works with an organisation that supports the education of poor children in India.
Closer to home, she works with various cultural and sporting organisations associated with Derby City Council. And she is also considering working with organisations that help young people in the UK. As she says, "The young generation are the future of this country."
Expect to hear more from the entrepreneur inevitably tagged 'The Curry Queen'.