Crisps, nuts and snacks suppliers 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 skills 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.

Instore execution is also important especially as ther can be a lot of duplication in the category, so the buters 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 from 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 Group's Emma Greatorex also impressed.

Gash's “excellent communications skills and drive to support 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.

Spencer Playle, who ranked as a top buyer for soft drinks last year, scored 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's 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.”

Star Buyer - Adrian Gash
Senior buyer for crisps, snacks and nuts, mineral water, soya beverages and long-life milk, Waitrose

Gash has been with Waitrose for two years, joining from Safeway, where he spent six years, covering pharmaceuticals and healthcare, bread and then crisps. His earlier career included three years with Unichem and spells with Peter Black cosmetics and the Burton Group. Gash believes the buying section is the engine room of the supermarket. “If we don't source the right goods, at the right price at the right time,” he says, “nothing else works.”

Best of the rest

Spencer Playle
Crisps, nuts and snacks buyer, Sainsbury

Playle has been buying crisps, nuts and snacks for Sainsbury since November last year, after two years as a soft drinks buyer. His career kicked off at the chain in 1997, with five years at in-store level, before a role as grocery buying assistant, passing the graduate training programme and becoming a frozen foods buyer.

Dudley Cooper
Crisps and snacks buyer, Morrisons

Cooper became Morrisons' crisps and snacks buyer four years ago, after being trainee buyer for a year. His retail career kicked off with a stint as a merchandiser for Costcutter, where he rose to the role of area manager and finally category manager. He has developed ranges and was involved in cutting salt in own label crisps by 25%.

Rowan Winter
Trading manager, crisps and snacks, MBL

Winter joined Budgens buying department a year ago after a stint at Spar, where she was non food buyer for six months. But she had previously been at MBL partner company Londis for eight years, where she started her career, learning the ropes as a trading assistant before moving on to the role of grocery buyer.

Lewis Kingsland,
Category manager, Booker

Kingsland has been with Booker since February 2005, when he became category manager for some confectionery sections. He added crisps, nuts and snacks to the role three months ago. His buying career has also covered tobacco, phone cards, ambient grocery and fresh foods and roles with Makro and The Co-operative Group. He joined the latter at the age of 16 and worked his way up from the shop floor.

Emma Greatorex
Senior buying manager, Thresher Group

Greatorex arrived at Thresher 18 months ago, following a two-year stint as trading manager for Costcutter. When she first arrived at Thresher, she looked after the convenience arena, adding impulse lines to her role last year. Greatorex started her career on Safeway's graduate training scheme in trading and marketing, and also spent two years with a buying group in Amsterdam.