Functional foods extend across many different supermarket fixtures, so in this arena milk, snacks, fresh foods and chilled drinks buyers were up against each other.
Despite the diversity of products, there was homogeneity in the characteristics valued by suppliers. Skills traditionally associated with buyers - decisiveness, clarity of communication, reliability and honesty - were praised, but, because this area is relatively new, other attributes were also highly regarded. These included dynamism, an ability to absorb information quickly - essential in an area delivering complex health solutions - and encouragement and support.
Star buyer Michael Luck from Sainsbury is no stranger to Six of the Best. This is the first time he has topped the bill, but he has twice been among the stars in juices and smoothies, and also polled well within dairy last year.The suppliers nominating Luck focused on his &"bold decision-making, ability to recognise opportunities and willingness to investigate alternative options&".
One pointed out: &"He&'s very approachable and proactive, and will always challenge processes to implement ideas and lead the market.&"
Like Luck, Adrian Gash has featured in a previous Six of the Best line-up, polling well in crisps, nuts and snacks last year. Suppliers praised his responsiveness and organisational skills, with one describing him as &"a real gentleman&". Another said: &"Even though he has a big range of products to look after, he always talks as if your products are the most important.&"
Sarah McConkey at Tesco is a newcomer to our top six line-up, as are Tim Wykes from Morrisons and Tesco buyers Jenny West and Helen Bissell.
McConkey&'s calmness and common sense in dealing with difficult situations was flagged up by one supplier, while another added: &"She&'s always looking for new ideas and is prepared to listen if you don&'t agree with her.&"
Wykes was lauded for his understanding of functional foods and customer focus, as well as his emphasis on long-term category growth: &"He&'s willing to listen to new ideas, has a sensible and practical approach, and will try to find a mutually agreeable solution whenever possible,&" said one fan.
Jenny West from Tesco - a trainee buyer - was singled out for her &"unfailing enthusiasm and support&", while her predecessor, Helen Bissell, now a buyer for ambient desserts and pickles, olives and gherkins, was praised for her supportive and farsighted approach.
Star Buyer Michael Luck
Buyer for added value milk, Tesco
Trainee buyer for NRT, slimming, health foods and diagnostics, Tesco
Buyer for ambient desserts, pickles, olives and gherkins, Tesco
Fresh foods buyer, Morrisons
Senior grocery buyer, Waitrose