Rebecca N. Bleibaum, M.A., President/Chief, Sensory Intelligence

Bleibaum has over 30 years of experience in applying sensory and consumer research with major multinational businesses. She spent most of her career at Tragon Corporation, under the guidance of Dr. Herbert Stone & Joel L. Sidel’s, as their first student intern, and then left as their Chief Sensory Officer. In 2017, she co-founded Dragonfly SCI, Inc., with fellow researchers, creating a sensory and consumer science consultancy organization. Dragonfly SCI’s mission is to help companies utilize sensory measurement data for innovation, new product development, and product improvements, among many others.

She is a co-developer and instructor of UC Davis Extension’s popular and long-running “Applied Sensory & Consumer Science”. In 2016, she was awarded the prestigious UC Davis Extension Outstanding Service Award for her contributions and dedication to the University’s continuing education program. Bleibaum is co-author of Sensory Evaluation Practices, Fifth Edition (2021), A Practical Guide to Comparative Advertising: Dare-to-Compare (2019), and editor of ASTM International, Manual 13, Second Edition on Descriptive Analysis (2020). She is chair-elect of UC Davis’s Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Leadership board, the past Chair for ASTM E-18 on Sensory Evaluation, past E-18 chair on Communication and Training, 2010 Society of Sensory Professionals Conference Chair, past Secretary of SSP, Professional member of IFT and the IFT Sensory and Consumer Sciences Division. Bleibaum earned her B.S. from U.C. Davis, under the guidance of Rose Marie Pangborn and Dr. Howard Schutz, and her M.A. in Physiological Psychology and Psychophysics from Washington University, specializing in Consumer Behavior.

Heather A. Thomas, Chief, Data & Analytics

Thomas was a key member of Tragon Corporation from 1989 to 2017.  As their Vice President of Research and Analysis, she played an integral part in developing product optimization methods, segmentation analyses, and advanced multivariate analysis and modeling techniques.  Her extensive experience with experimental design and choice-based modeling has helped guide multinational companies to create products that appeal to consumers. As the developer of the Maximizer, she has created an operational predictive tool that integrates sensory, consumer, and instrumental measurements to guide product development and marketing groups.

Thomas has over 25 years of experience training QDA panels, analyzing their performance, and interpreting the results.  Her training and support had been under the guidance of the founders of the original QDA method, Herbert Stone and Joel L. Sidel.  As part of empowering the sensory industry, she regularly travels around the world, teaching sensory scientists the power of trained panel data and panel performance measures.

Thomas received her B.S. in Food Science from U.C. Davis where she focused her education in Sensory Science under Rosemary Pangborn.  She is a co-author, with Stone and Sidel, of Hitting the Target: Sensory and Product Optimization, a seminal article on sensory and consumer-based product optimization techniques.  She is co-author of Sensory Evaluation Practices, Fourth Edition (2012), Stone, Bleibaum, and Thomas.

Janet Williams, M.S., Chief, Consumer Insights

Janet holds over 30 years of experience directing strategic research projects for CPG brands. Since beginning her career in sensory evaluation for Wilson Foods and Miller Brewing Company, she has held roles in consumer insight at Del Monte Foods, Clorox and Tragon, a full-service market research company. At Tragon (1987 to 2014), Janet worked with multiple manufacturers on projects that defined marketplace gaps and identified the products to fill the gaps. Janet is proficient in qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, and in developing strategic consumer insights based on statistical data. In addition to being able to create and design research based on client objectives, she holds expertise in advertising claims substantiation. Janet earned her master’s degree in food science and technology from the University of California, Davis.

And . . . Anna Leachman, M.S., Director, Research Essentials

Anna Leachman has over 10 years of experience applying her knowledge of sensory and consumer science for large, medium and small food, personal care and ingredient companies including PepsiCo, Unilever, Kerry Ingredients, Amy’s Kitchen and Mariani Packing Company. Anna has expertise in the utilization of sensory science tools to help solve challenging business problems in both product development and quality assurance. She has used this expertise to build and grow enterprise sensory programs from their infancy. Anna is now combining her passions for teaching and sensory and consumer science to help further Dragonfly SCI’s mission to help CPG teams of all sizes gain valuable knowledge to drive product success through the application of sensory and consumer science tools. Anna studied Sensory Science at the University of California, Davis and conferred her master’s degree.