Meet the Joy Makers
They’re taste testers, data gurus, chemistry wizards, and even plant doctors. But above all, they’re Joy Makers. Get to know the people behind the berries.
Jessica is one of Driscoll’s Molecular Blueberry Breeders. As a molecular breeder, she examines various qualities of blueberries (such as fruit size, flavor, and disease resistance) and finds the genes that are linked to those traits. That way, Driscoll’s can more efficiently breed the best berries without ever using GMOs.
Jessica is quick to share fun facts about blueberries. Did you know that the inside of a blueberry is green or white? Most people don’t realize that because they eat blueberries whole. Or she’ll tell you that even though most people associate the size of a blueberry with its flavor (some people claim small blueberries are the best, others swear that the largest ones taste best), the size of the blueberry actually has nothing to do with its flavor!
In his role as the Senior Scientist of Chemistry, Driscoll's Joy Maker Michael looks at the “recipe of fruit,” and what compounds make up the flavor of each berry. He studies the berry characteristics that consumers state they prefer (often from sensory tests conducted by Sensory Analysts like Henry. He also works with Molecular Plant Breeders (like Jessica) and Molecular Geneticists (like Jud) to ensure that Driscoll’s berries have the delicious flavors berry-testers say they like.
Jud is Driscoll’s Principal Scientist for Molecular Genetics which means that Jud looks at fruit genes and makes educated predictions about what traits a berry will have. Through genetic testing, Jud is able to examine a plant even when it is still a seedling to see if that berry will grow up to have important traits such as disease resistance. He can also identify traits that consumers tell Driscoll’s that they love, such as sweet flavor or a rich color. (Above, Jud identifies the genes that predict a strawberry may have a peachy flavor).
Phil is Driscoll’s Global Plant Breeding Director of Strawberry (known as “Dr. Strawberry.”) He oversees Driscoll’s strawberry breeding program. On any given day, you might find Phil walking the research fields, tasting strawberries for sweetness, grading them for visual appeal, and figuring out which strawberry plants will produce the highest yield. He also helps determine whether a particular berry selection should be passed along to a Driscoll Sensory Scientist (like Henry) to gather consumer feedback. Ultimately, he says, the goal is “coming up with varieties that will produce better fruit for our consumers.”
As the expert on strawberries, Phil says that strawberries are “a fun, diverse plant.” Indeed, strawberries can come in many more varieties than you typically find at your supermarket.
Henry studies which berries are favorites of berry lovers like you. He presents multiple berry selections to consumers and collects their feedback on their sensory experience with the flavor, aroma, visual appearance, and texture of each of the berries. Based on the response of these berry-testing consumers, Henry makes recommendations as to which berry selections Driscoll’s should continue to test and breed. He also provides data to the Molecular Breeders (like Jessica) and Chemists (like Michael) to use for their studies.
What Henry really likes about Driscoll’s, he says, is that “no other berry company really puts as much thought and depth into their R&D program as Driscoll’s, and also no other company puts as much thought into integrating the R&D program with the rest of Driscoll’s.”
Jenny, Driscoll’s Global Plant Health Manager, makes sure plants and berries stay healthy, all the way from their time in the nurseries to the fruiting fields. As a Joy Maker, she’s a big believer in long-term investment in plants. “You want to start with good genetics to be resistant from the beginning,” she explains. It’s important to “make sure it’s not a wimpy plant that dies easily.” Along with her team, she works on preventative care for plants, collaborates with breeders, and also makes house calls to check on plants when they’re growing out in the fields.