We reveal the 38 category winners in The Grocer’s Supplier of the Year survey 2012. And they also form the shortlist for two of 24 awards at The Grocer’s Gold awards, unveiled today

The clock is ticking. The countdown has begun. With the shortlist for the illustrious Gold Awards 2012 unveiled today, there are less than seven weeks to go before the 24 winners are revealed.

Among the most hotly contested awards will be to crown the Supplier of the Year. Following a survey of category buyers - selected from all the big four supermarkets together with other leading retailers, wholesalers and buying groups - the achievements of the 19 branded and 19 own-label category winners, are highlighted across the following pages.

All now go forward, as finalists, to The Grocer Gold Awards, on 13 June (see below), with the ultimate branded and own-label winners selected by the top trading and commercial directors.

An equally painstaking process decides the winners of the prestigious Grocer 33 awards, with the results of 12 months of careful price comparison-based analysis complemented by mystery shopping visits across the length and breadth of the country.

To decide Britain’s Favourite Supermarket, we employ Nielsen to poll consumers. And we also hand-select four expert judging panels to choose the winners of a wide suite of awards recognising the diversity of achievement in the UK’s grocery sector, from the Grocer of the Year to the Specialist Wholesaler of the Year from the Online Retailer of the Year, to the Technology and Logistics Supplier of the Year as well as awards for the Own-Label Range of the Year and the best individual Brand of the Year in food, soft drinks, alcoholic drinks and non-food.

“The Gold Awards is one of THE highlights of the grocery calendar,” says Adam Leyland, editor of The Grocer. “As we celebrate The Grocer’s 150th anniversary, these awards are a positive affirmation of the great work being done by retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and suppliers in this fast-moving industry, and no stone will be left unturned to deliver a memorable night worthy of the huge, vibrant, creative and delicious industry we work in.”

A new focus at this year’s awards is longevity. To tie in with The Grocer’s 150th anniversary celebrations, the magazine has launched a special award to unearth the hidden heroes of grocery, who do those all-important jobs that ensure the industry continues to tick over, with unstinting loyalty and commitment.

“From shelf-stackers to sales reps, factory floor workers to the back office, our new campaign is for workers who have dedicated their life to serving the grocery industry throughout the unprecedented changes we’ve witnessed in the past few decades,” adds Leyland. (The shortlist for the hidden heroes will be announced separately.)

A table has already been set aside for the most outstanding candidates in this category so that their unstinting efforts can be honoured. But not everyone is so lucky, with tickets selling like hot cakes.

“Last year’s awards sold out faster than ever. As an exclusive event, in a superb setting, with stunning food and drink, a great party atmosphere, and in our anniversary year, this is one event not to miss,” says Leyland. “If you don’t book your table at the grocery industry’s most glamorous event very soon, I promise you will be disappointed.”

Branded winne
r: Carlsberg

Buyers say: “Carlsberg supported all initiatives with bespoke aligned strategy… We chose it for its clear brand and pack strategy presented in a timely manner and proactive and flexible account management delivering consistent profitable growth.”

Carlsberg says: “Over the last couple of years, we have made strides to make sure all our operations have our customers at the very heart. We have the flexibility and capability to respond to customers’ needs and provide them with pack formats or brands exclusive to them. We work in partnership with our customers so we can make recommendations based on a true understanding of what their customers really want.”

Own-label winner: C&C

Buyers say: “It continues to innovate and provide good support in the management of the account. Budget management has been excellent… Availability and reliability of deliveries has been excellent. Very good product quality.”

C&C says: “We are very pleased to have won this prestigious award. Being named best own-label supplier reflects the effort we have put into supplying top quality products and excellent service across our portfolio. Our customers are very important to us and it is gratifying to hear that they appreciate our efforts.”

Branded winn
er: Heinz

Buyers say: “Strong brand, well supported with strong promotional support… Heinz offers continued support in PMPs for the independent retailer, both on reducing case sizes and improving retailer margin whilst maintaining great availability throughout the year.”

Heinz says: “In 2011, Heinz accelerated its momentum behind more breakthrough innovation, marketing and sales effectiveness, including bold social media initiatives. In the coming year, Heinz will continue to bring new news to the categories as well as continuing to build on the strategic partners shopper partnerships that we have in place.”

Own-label winner: Symington’s

Buyers say: “Symington’s speed from concept to launch is exceptional - they are dedicated and professional and they are a pleasure to do business with… Highly responsive and innovative with NPD… The company offers great support in creating consumer added-value packs.”

Symington’s says: “The company works with internal and external product panels to ensure its products are consistently produced to the highest of standards. It invests significantly in new technologies and categories, and ensures these investments are efficient so it can continue to deliver products at the lowest cost to its consumers.”

Biscuits & cakes
Branded winner: Burton’s Biscuit Co

Buyers say: “Innovative NPD and in particular Christmas NPD… Customer focused, company punches above its weight and is great at building relationships.”

Burton’s Biscuit Company says: “The rebranding of Burton’s Foods into Burton’s Biscuit Company reinforces our emphasis on our power brands and our mission of using our expertise in baking high quality biscuits to make every day more of a treat for our consumers. The strong working relationships we have with our retail partners have helped us deliver on our commitment to meeting consumer needs in compelling new ways, adding excitement to the biscuit aisle and driving the category forward.”

Own-label winner: United Biscuits

Buyers say: “They offer the complete package on own-label biscuits… Their service is consistently good and the product quality is excellent… We chose UB for its willingness to work with us to develop a strong own-label presence… Collaborative, with great market understanding.”

United Biscuits says: “UB is incredibly proud of its product quality and believe it has the best tasting biscuits and cakes on the market. It is because of this product quality, the expertise of its factories and the knowledge and service provided by its dedicated private label teams that private label in UB is seeing significant growth.”

Bread & bakery
Branded winner: Allied Bakeries

Buyers say: “Very strategically aligned to our business - the account manager is superb and between us we are transforming the landscape of bought in bread… Excellent support to category and the best brand plans for 2012… Our most pro-active bread supplier.”

Allied Bakeries says: “It’s great that for the fourth year in a row our customers have recognised and awarded Allied Bakeries with bakery supplier of the year. This achievement is a testament to our passionate people who continue to deliver for customers and consumers day in and day out, and the on-going investment we are making in our brands, and our bakeries.”

Own-label winner: Honeytop

Buyers say: “They have been very flexible and adaptable in taking over the supply to our business… They offer a wide array of products and we believe there is a lot of scope to grow our own-label category with this supplier.”

Honeytop says: “Founded in 1984, Honeytop prides itself on having a genuine commitment to quality and excellence with a truly unconditional desire to provide customers with the most authentic products on the market. We look forward to continue to work effectively, and in partnership, with all our customers in the exciting times ahead.”

Branded winner: Weetabix

Buyers say: “The company has successfully launched a new smaller pack size specifically for the convenience sector… My vote goes to Weetabix for its customer-focused brand extensions - it’s a truly British brand… I chose Weetabix for its excellent trade marketing through price marked packs… It exhibits a strong focus on core range, better strategic planning.”

Weetabix says: “On the Weetabix brand, we source all of our wheat within 50 miles of the factory. We oversee the entire process, from local fields to box - it’s better for the environment, gives us greater control over quality and is the reason why Weetabix tastes as good as it does.”

Own-label winner: Weetabix

Buyers say: “Weetabix has worked with us on our ranges and the company has really stood out because of its focus on own- label products and also its obsession for quality products… Weetabix has continually helped us to develop our own-label business.”

Weetabix says: “Excellence in food manufacture starts with the quality of our ingredients - for both branded and own-label products. We’re very proud of both our branded and retailer brand offering and delighted that the quality of our products has been recognised by our customers.”

Branded winner: Kepak Convenience

Buyers say: “I chose Kepak because of its on-going commitment to supporting our meal deal and improving promotional activity through a collaborative review of our data… We were impressed by its marketing and brand strength, consistent supply and good account management.”

Kepak says: “Over the last year, we’ve sought to exceed customer expectations in all key areas of our business. We have invested heavily in research to understand consumer buying patterns and accelerate our proven model of taking high street fast food into retail. We’ve also maintained high levels of brand investment at a time when many brands have reduced their spend.”

Own-label winner: Greencore

Buyers say: “Greencore is a genuine category champion with strong innovation and supply chain delivery… Greencore has invested in its factory capability to move forward the packaging proposition in our sandwiches and ready meal solutions.”

Greencore says: “Customer relationships are critical for Greencore and we are structured in such a way that ensures that we understand the needs of our customers and are able to provide tailored solutions for them. For us the process starts with a deep consumer understanding, which drives our NPD agenda.”

Branded winner: Nestlé

Buyers say: “Fantastic support to achieve company goals of choice. Great NPD launched with consumer facing promotions to drive distribution… Customer focused and provides total business solution across all business functions… Consistently high level of service… It has the ability to drive a “more for more” retailer strategy to trade.”

Nestlé says: “We continue to work very closely with our trade partners to help build mutually positive businesses but with the consumer at the very heart of our thinking. It is great that our customers recognise the work we are doing to develop the category and help them achieve their objectives as well as meet the needs of the consumer.”

Own-label winner: Glisten UK

Buyers say: “We don’t have many private label manufacturers but Glisten is the largest private company that we use and their performance last year was well above average… The company delivers consistently high levels of service and support.”

Glisten says: “For more than 100 years Glisten Confectionery has been manufacturing quality confectionery in the UK. Our history is filled with sweet success and in the past few years it has grown in line with the popularity of our brands and the appeal of our traditional and contemporary confectionery.”

Crisps, nuts & snacks
Branded winner: Walkers (PepsiCo)

Buyers say: “Innovation pipeline is first class and their account teams work hard to put us ahead of the market… Category support top class…. They work tirelessly to deliver truly innovative NPD.”

Walkers says: “This award is incredibly important to us because it’s voted for by our customers and we’d like to thank them for their support. It’s been another very exciting year as Walkers has continued to drive sustainable category growth (+6%). Our customers are our key priority and it’s through developing an in-depth understanding of how we can help them to succeed that we bring continued success to us both in the category.”

Own-label winner: Kolak Snack Foods

Buyers say: “Launched four products with this company in July and sales were double expectations and Kolak did not miss a beat… They deliver great NPD for us and maintain a strong focus on keeping costs low… Flexible to our needs.”

Kolak says: “We believe in a working partnership with its customers. Our personal approach enables us to develop products that meet our customers’ demands in terms of quality, service, innovation and price. Sales of own-label products continue to grow. To meet this increased in demand, Kolak has committed to an investment programme of £10m during 2012.”

Branded winner: Dairy Crest

Buyers say: “As a business, Dairy Crest has been very supportive and proactive towards our business delivering great NPD and tailored promotional activity that has resulted in strong double digit growth… They understand the convenience market and offer products that work for the sector.”

Dairy Crest says: “Our brands are family favourites, found in fridges up and down the country. We supply products that aim to meet consumers’ needs and earn their loyalty. We want to grow our business by looking for new and better ways of doing things. We believe we should earn the right to consumers’ loyalty by providing healthy, enjoyable and convenient products.”

Own-label winner: Arla Foods

Buyers say: “They have supported our core strategy to deliver growth in a flat market within fresh milk… Account management and supply chain teams are first class within the supplier base… Arla demonstrates great flexibility for such a large company and works well to tight deadlines.”

Arla says: “We are delighted that our customers have again voted us number one. We focus on trying to deliver excellent service levels, great quality and innovation, empowering the best account managers and developing and implementing category strategies and plans that provide truly incremental growth for our customers.”

Desserts (chilled & frozen)
Branded winner: Müller Dairy

Buyers say: “Good NPD in 2011 helped maintain their brand share against strong competition from newcomers in the market such as Nom Dairy… Offers good support and supported our business plan with excellent product quality.”

Müller says: “As the biggest CYPD producer, Müller is committed to driving category growth. We’ve continued to lead and innovate with successful range extensions such as Greek Style Corner and Müllerlight Greek Style yogurts, which have struck a chord with consumers, through our rolling programme of limited editions, which we have now extended across the Müller portfolio.”

Own-label winner: Greencore Group

Buyers say: “We chose Greencore for its collaborative approach, creative NPD, good availability and prompt communication regarding day-to-day issues.”

Greencore says: “Maintaining strong relationships with our customers is of paramount importance to Greencore. This is why we are so pleased to have been recognised in this category since the acquisition of the Uniq chilled desserts business last year. Innovation is key in the desserts category and we aim to be market leading in this space, through superior market insight and excellent product development capabilities.”

Branded winner: McCain Foods

Buyers say: “My vote would go to McCain for the company’s complete support of the overall category through the numerous initiatives it puts in place… The company offers excellent service levels and account back up.”

McCain says: “To be recognized in this way by our customers is a terrific accolade and reflects our shared commitment for growth achieved through an agenda of better serving consumer and shopper needs. This in turn generates category growth and critically positive re-appraisal offrozen food. We can only achieve this through close working collaboration and alignment with our customers.”

Own-label winner: R&R Ice Cream

Buyers say: “They have a very strong and passionate account team who work very closely with the buyer and product development team to bring own-label innovation to the ice cream category…. They understand what it takes to win in a tough market.”

R&R says: “It’s always great to be recognised by our customers for all the effort that we put in. We basically treat brands and own label the same and we put in the same amount of investment in terms of resources, research and market data. We always start with the same question, which is: ‘how can we sell more?’”

Fruit, veg & salad
Branded winner: Soleco

Buyers say: “Delivers superb quality and consistency and is a great partner for our business… Has a very strong knowledge of the category… Proactively works with us to grow the category.”

Soleco says: “As a business, our focus has been on driving growth and we’ve worked with our retail colleagues to deliver insight, innovation and investment in the category and it is this continued investment in the Florette brand that I believe is key to our success. As such, over the past six years we have contributed almost 30% of the bagged salad category’s growth and continue to work hard to further drive growth upwards.”

Own-label winner: Rodanto

Buyers say: “Rodanto has supplied our business for the last 25 years with a range of fruit, veg and salad products sourced from Spain and around the world.”

Rodanto says: “Fresh produce requires efficiency and flexibility which is embraced throughout our business. We are recognised for delivering outstanding customer service whilst adopting a least cost approach. This ‘can do’ culture has been at the forefront of our recent and ongoing success. Total recognition is to be given to the devotion of Rodanto’s young and established professional team both here in UK and abroad.”

Hot beverages
Branded winner: Nestlé

Buyers say: “Strong NPD, original customer insight, working ith customers to delier a strong end user proposition… Good innovation and consistent brand execution… Quick to respond and fully committed to our plans regarding range and NPD.”

Nestlé says: “As the coffee category leader, it is our responsibility to develop exciting and innovative plans which resonate with not only the trade but also the consumer. To drive the category, we have demonstrated our expertise by responding to consumer trends in the market place. Through innovation and a close understanding of our shoppers’ needs, we can help retailers grow their sales and profit.”

Own-label winner: Finlays

Buyers say: “Best service in the industry… Product quality on a par with brand leaders… Outstanding contribution to the development of Fairtrade tea… Consistent supply of quality teas at very competitive prices.”

Finlays says: “We work collaboratively with our customers to drive and support their product range and growth strategies. This work has been strengthened by recent capital investment in new packaging formats and markets. Underpinning all our activity is our sustainable business commitment.”

Branded winner: Procter & Gamble

Buyers say: “We chose P&G for its commitment to our category range review projects… It has very hands on account managers who are always available, efficient and are constantly coming up with new initiatives to drive sales… P&G impressed us with its strong promotion driving footfall, strong NPD delivering customer interest and strong customer insight.”

P&G says: “We’ve focused on innovating across our total portfolio to bring a full P&G proposition to all our retailers and their shoppers. This means continuing breakthrough premium innovation but also bringing new innovation to value and base ranges too.”

Own-label winner: McBride

Buyers say: “Timely supply of two own- label projects… McBride know household inside out. They are enthusiastic about getting the appropriate range for their retailers and genuinely want the best for the consumer.”

McBride says: “During challenging times, honesty, integrity and proactively seeking best value alternatives in a rising commodity market establishes a level of trust and confidence. This, together with intimate category knowledge and complete consumer focus on the category, means we work in collaboration with our customers for the good of their customers.”

Infant care
Branded winner: Procter & Gamble

Buyers say: P&G impressed with its promotional support, in-store support with baby events and retailer support… We chose P&G for its strong brand support. It creates pack sizes that are appropriate for the channel and supports improvements through in-store execution… Account manager is always contactable and happy to help.”

P&G says: “We’ve continued to innovate and bring new products across our range and this means up and down price tiers. We want every mum to be able to choose a Pampers nappy for their baby that suits them, so we’ve introduced premium and value ranges above and below the standard line.”

Own-label winner: Nice-Pak

Buyers say: “We chose Nice-Pak as our own-label supplier of the year because the company has great availability and a can-do attitude… Nice-Pak is a straight-forward company that always has new ideas for the market sector… It offers excellent service levels.”

Nice-Pak says: “To have won this award for the second year running is testament to the collective efforts of the whole Nice-Pak team who have, despite the stresses and strains of an extremely challenging economic environment, continued to focus on the three fundamental tenets of our business: quality, service and innovation.”

Meat, fish, poultry
Branded winner: Gressingham Foods

Buyers say: “My vote goes to Gressingham for the quality of product, market leadership and willingness to support sales growth in a tough economy… Gressingham is reliable and delivers products of a consistently high quality.”

Gressingham says: “Over the last year, we’ve put immense effort into developing a robust plan to grow the category and get more people cooking with duck. All areas of the business have been involved, in particular with our investment in the brand and the development of new packaging across the entire range. We have ambitious plans so the continued efforts of our team and support of our customers will be vital.”

Own-label winner: ABP Food Group

Buyers say: “The company delivers great availability, quality and customer service. It has made a huge contribution to stepping up our quality this year… It continually does the basics well with great inbound service, supply chain and account management support… I chose ABP for its ability to bring about change as well as its innovation and flexibility in meeting tough demands.”

ABP says: “We are delighted to receive this award and are especially pleased as this award is voted for by our customers. We take great pride in what we do and I would like to take the opportunity to say thank you to all our customers.”

Personal care
Branded winner: Procter & Gamble

Buyers say: “Offers excellent promotional support and in-store support via personal care events… P&G impressed with its enthusiastic approach to develop the category through diligent planning backed up by strong brands and promotions.”

P&G says: “The strength of the P&G beauty and grooming business in the past year has come through a combination of innovation and meeting all shoppers’ needs. This year, we are introducing our loyal shoppers to more P&G brands via our olympic sponsorship, bringing together our leading beauty & grooming brands, supported by celebrity athletes, to further boost growth of the personal care category.”

Own-label winner: Toiletry Sales

Buyers say: “This company is a no frills but efficient supplier that does exactly what it says on the tin… We chose Toiletry Sales because it is a reliable and consistent supplier that’s keen to build a good working relationship with customers.”

Toiletry Sales says: “At Toiletry Sales, we continue to strive to work closely with our customers by understanding their needs along the chain and adapting accordingly. We have successfully moved into new categories over the past 12 months and have ambitious plans for further developments that we are excited about bringing to market.”

Branded winner: Mars Petcare

Buyers say: “We chose Mars because of its absolute professionalism and collaboration… It is responsive and creative. On hand to lend support every step of the way… Delivers excellent customer service everyday… Good promotional strategy and account management… Continued NPD.”

Mars says: “We are truly passionate about pets and always work to build a better world for pets in the UK and worldwide. Everything we do is guided by this principle, and our buyers clearly respect this as well as the quality of products. We are delighted that our buyers have voted us best branded supplier. We will continue to work tirelessly to meet their needs.”

Own-label winner: Fold Hill Foods

Buyers say: “We chose Fold Hill Foods because it is a low-cost producer of complete dog food and is logistically aligned with our position… It provides products that are of a consistently high quality along with good customer service and support.”

Fold Hill says: “We are absolutely delighted to have been voted best own-label producer in the petfood category and we would like to thank everyone who voted for us. Fold Hill Foods has been producing pet food for more than 30 years. But despite our growth, we have remained true to our core values. As a team we want to always exceed expectations.”

Soft drinks
Branded winner: Coca-Cola Enterprises

Buyers say: “Great support… It’s more focused on the independent market than other suppliers… We chose CCE for its ambition to improve and evolve the category… Great account management and insight.”

CCE says: “We’re delighted to win this award because at CCE we are focused on being the number one supplier for our customers. We are working hard with retailers to unlock the headroom growth that still exists in soft drinks and enhance customer profitability through a strategy we call Open More Business. It’s rewarding as a supplier when these efforts get recognised but we don’t take anything for granted. We intend to work really hard to ensure it continues.”

Own-label winner: Cott Beverages

Buyers say: “Cott offers category support and insight within own label to a higher level than all other suppliers… Cott’s focus on everyday low cost is unparalleled… Excellent service level, good quality products.”

Cott says: “Our customers are always looking to further develop their offering both in terms of taste and packaging. Our marketing and sales team enjoys working with customers on insights and ideas and our technical and operations teams actively work with our customers to deliver solutions. It sounds simple but delivering the basics requires focus and effort.”