Confectionery may be under siege from sectors that have a healthier image but there is still mileage in a spot of indulgence, say the suppliers who nominated this month's winning buyers.
Their votes have gone to buyers who show fairness and clarity and knowledge of the market, but they also rank highly those who understand the importance of striking a balance between healthier lines versus treats and premium versus price and value.
Clare Bartlett from Waitrose tops the pile. She has been in the role for a year after several years focused on health, beauty and babycare but has evidently amassed an impressive level of market understanding.
"She has built up a really good product knowledge and has continued to deliver a sales performance ahead of the market," says one admirer, while another says: "She is focused on offering the Waitrose shopper a differentiated choice of confectionery and is keen to use category insight to drive sales."
Morrisons buyer Ryan Turnbull is a close second and is widely praised for being fair and approachable. "He's not bothered by your name not being Mr Cadbury, Mr Mars or Mr Nestlé," says one smaller supplier. "He gives an equal crack of the whip to all."
Richard Brittle from Hancocks Cash & Carry is described as a "semi-legend in confectionery". His 40 years' experience working in the arena have given him "wonderful knowledge", according to one supporter, while his scrupulous sense of fair play is another much-praised characteristic: "With him, a handshake is a deal."
Tesco's Des Dunbar "really values relationships with suppliers, seeing this partnership approach as a better way of getting more from suppliers", according to one company. He is also singled out for being perceptive and for understanding what drives people and businesses. "He engages in negotiation to create value, not just a straight win/lose situation," is another comment. "He is extremely hands-on in category reviews and takes total accountability for decisions."
Mike Luck from Sainsbury's is no stranger to the Six of the Best section, having been nominated several times as buyer for chilled drinks. This time around nominators praised his grasp of promotional needs and how to work with a supplier on these, as well as his understanding of smaller manufacturers. "'He is sympathetic and knows how to grow a brand," says one nominator.
Paul Grigg from Tesco is also singled out. "He is very proactive and understands different points of view," says one smaller supplier. "It's not all about price with him, he's very willing to listen to what we're about."