Sauces have lost their sticky image and found sophistication while condiments have also managed to stay clear of the health agenda thanks to the fact they're used in small quantities.

Sauces is a dynamic arena. Manufacturers have given old favourites a boost and added innovative new lines, while recent barbecuing weather has boosted accompaniments. Price promotions threaten category value, however.

This creates a background where buyers with an eye for innovation are particularly valued and suppliers are keen to praise those who tread the fine line. Receptiveness to new ideas and a proactive approach are characteristics that come in for particular praise.

Top of the pile this time is John Stokes from Waitrose, who has featured among Six of the Best sauce buyers before, although this is his first time on the winner's rostrum.

"He is open-minded and receptive to new ideas, prepared to take risks and treats suppliers in a representative way of the John Lewis Group's ethical values," says one supporter.

Stokes is also recognised as a bit of a connoisseur. "He knows his category inside out and knows exactly what his customers are looking for," according to another supplier.

Sainsbury's Louise Jones has also appeared here before. This time nominators praise her accessibility. "It's a great asset," says one. "She is challenging but supportive in doing what is best for the category."

Another Sainsbury's buyer has also made the top six. Rick Squire is a buyer for chilled foods but, with sauces extending into new arenas, suppliers are impressed by him.

"His passion to drive innovation, his strategic approach and cross-functional working have allowed us to challenge current category behaviours," says one.

Helen Bissell from Tesco has also featured before, but in functional foods. This time, supporters praise her dynamic attitude to pickles and condiments. "Helen embraces the ­importance of NPD and is keen to ensure Tesco is first to market," says one. "She has a proactive approach to overcoming hurdles."

Tesco has also scored a second winner in this category, with Sam Nundy. His fans deem him "intelligent and interested in offering his consumers points of difference".

The final member of the sextet is Asda's Andy Schefer, whose passion and enthusiasm appeals. "He is open to new ideas and making things happen, " says one fan.

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