Alcohol buyers work in an industry that is rife with new products and emerging consumers trends, so deciding which brands deserve to make ?the shelves is a tough job.
Innovation ?has kept buyers on their toes over the past year, with increasing demand for cider, rosé, sparkling wine and premium spirits, as well as the traditional favourites. It's a category ?that is also extremely competitive in its pricing, particularly during the Christmas period.
So suppliers are keen to acknowledge and praise buyers who take the time to weigh up the merits of each ?brand and who take a proactive approach to the job.
Sainsbury's Fiona Bayley is this month's star buyer, with suppliers lavish in their praise for her commitment to and development of the ?spirits category.
One supplier cites her "ongoing support and investment in? the rum market and premium brands, as well as her commitment to consumer education", while another says? she "brings a breath of fresh air to buying with her determination to learn the subject and ability to be fair and objective".
?Sainsbury's features again in this category through its senior wine buyer Julian Dyer, who is noted for his "very good understanding of wine and of his category". Similarly, Dee Blackstock, Waitrose's wine buyer, is considered worthy of recognition for being "highly efficient, forward thinking and receptive to innovation".
The supermarkets lead the way in terms of nominations, with Morrisons senior buyer Jane Pearson also making the top six. Pearson stands out with suppliers for her proactive approach. "She has a real understanding of the products she deals with and a clear vision of how she wants to develop the Morrisons' offer," says one?. Pearson is also praised for ? "taking on new products before others, which really contributes to keeping the market competitive and exciting".
But it isn't only supermarket buyers who are deemed worthy of commendation. Justin Apthorp, buying director for Majestic Wine Warehouses, is considered """very efficient with a fantastic range". He is recognised for setting commercially ?aggressive price points?, which "reflects strong, commercially focused buying"?.
Phil Edwards, Thresher Group's buying controller, has also reached the top six. "He adds much value to the branded offering in Wine Rack and Thresher stores for consumers," says one supplier.
Star buyer Fiona Bayley Sainsbury's spirits Buyer
Fiona Bayley has worked for Sainsbury's for ?more than 20 years, moving from trainee management into buying? six years ago. In 2000 she took the role of tobacco buyer?, which led to the position of beer buyer?, including responsibility for cider? and coinciding with the nation's growing interest in the drink. "I'm really pleased to have been responsible for getting Magners listed, which has gone from strength to strength," she says. In January this year she moved into the role of spirits buyer?, dealing with bigger brands and a bigger budget.
?Justin Apthorp Buying director, Majestic Wine Warehouses
Justin Apthorp has worked at Majestic since 13 September 1991, the day before he got married, and he has managed the wine retailer's buying department since 2002. Before Majestic he was part of the senior management team at Wizard Wine, which separated from frozen food retailer Bejam after it was bought out by rival Iceland. ?
?Phil Edwards Buying controller, Thresher Group
Phil Edwards has worked for the Thresher Group for four and a half years. He began his career in wine ?in 1991, working for Laithwaites on its Bordeaux Direct concept. ?He ?has worked in the wine and spirits department at Booker and the wine buying team at Safeway. At Thresher he heads up the buying function??.
?Jane Pearson Senior buyer, Morrisons
Pearson currently looks after the spirits and fortified wine categories for Morrisons. She began her career there in August 1991 as an administrator for the beers, wines and spirits department before moving into stock control. After this she took up a role as a trainee buyer for 18 months and ?worked as a buyer for five years. Pearson has been a senior buyer for ?more than three years.
?Julian Dyer Senior buyer, Sainsbury's
Julian Dyer is responsible for wines from Australia and New Zealand at Sainsbury's. He joined the retailer's wine team in 1998 and he has looked after several countries during his time with the company. His first buying role was ?covering Italy, South America and Eastern Europe. During his time working within the wine industry he studied for his WSET Diploma, ?which he passed ?with honours.
?Dee Blackstock MW Wine buyer, Waitrose
Dee Blackstock's wine career began at Gerard Harris Fine Wines, attached to a Relais et Châteaux hotel in Buckinghamshire. She moved to Waitrose in 1991 and ?became a Master of Wine the following year at her first attempt, making her one of only 251 people in the world to have achieved this qualification. ?She is also one of four Masters of Wine on the Government Hospitality Advisory Committee for the purchase of wine.