Crisps, nuts and snacks is dynamic and driven by innovation, with players continually striving to satisfy demand for variety, quality and taste, as well as healthier products.

It is little surprise therefore, that communication and speed of action are paramount when suppliers rate the buyers they work with. Eagerness to get new ideas on shelf, encouragement of debate and accessibility also score highly. In-store execution is also important, especially as there can be a lot of duplication in the category, so the buyers who work to deliver category solutions are highly valued.

With these traits in mind, Waitrose's Adrian Gash was definitely the man to beat. He has made several appearances in Six of the Best, but this time he finally topped the pile.

He was hard pushed by Dudley Cooper from Morrisons and Spencer Playle of Sainsbury, however, both of whom have also featured in the Six of the Best slot. MBL's Rowan Winter scored highly too, while Booker's Lewis Kingsland and Thresher's Emma ­Greatorex also impressed.

Gash's "excellent communication skills and drive for a mutually beneficial relationship" were singled out, along with willingness to encourage smaller suppliers and get new ideas onto shelves. His supporters praised his "approachable and co-operative style" and his accessibility. "He encourages debate to understand what's best for the category," said one fan.

Spencer Playle, who ranked as a top buyer for soft drinks last year, scores highly on pragmatism and dedication to building strong relationships. "He always looks to find solutions," said one supplier. "Spencer maintains a great balance between being challenging and being supportive."

Dudley Cooper "always looks to add interest to the category", according to one fan. His visionary attitude and aim to educate store staff and consumers were also praised, as were his fairness, readiness to adapt and willingness to embrace new initiatives.

Rowan Winter was rated as a "first rate buyer and very easy to deal with," by one supplier. "She sees growth opportunities and is pro-active."

Emma Greatorex was admired for speed in making decisions and efficiency in implementing them.

Lewis Kingsland's "drive for results and focus on flawless execution have delivered some fantastic results," according to one supplier, who also admired Kingsland's willingness to share insight and his "demanding, pragmatic but collaborative approach".