Alcohol buyers work in an industry that is rife with new product lines and emerging consumers trends, so establishing which brands deserve to make it onto the shelves is a tough job.

Innovation has kept buyers on their toes over the past year, with increasing demand for cider, rosé, sparkling wine and premium spirits, as well as the traditional favourites. It's a category which is also extremely competitive in its pricing, particularly over the Christmas period.

So suppliers are keen to acknowledge and praise buyers who take the time to weigh up the merits of each particular brand and who take a proactive approach to the job.

Sainsbury's Fiona Bayley is this month's star buyer, with suppliers lavish in their praise for her commitment to and development of the spirits category.

One supplier cites her “ongoing support and investment into the rum market, premium brands and a commitment to consumer education,” while another says she “brings a breath of fresh air to buying with her determination to learn the subject and ability to be fair and objective.”

Sainsbury's features again in this category through its senior wine buyer Julian Dyer, who is noted for his “very good understanding of wine and of his category.” Similarly Dee Blackstock, Waitrose's wine buyer, was considered worthy of recognition for being “highly efficient, forward thinking and receptive to innovation.”

The supermarkets led the way in terms of nominations, with Morrisons senior buyer Jane Pearson also making it to the top six. Pearson stands out with suppliers for her proactive approach. “She has a real understanding of the products she deals with and a clear vision of how she wants to develop the Morrisons' offer,” says one. Pearson was also praised for being brave, in particular for “taking on new products before others, which really contributes to keeping the market competitive and exciting.”

But it isn't just the supermarket buyers that suppliers deemed worthy of commendation. Justin Apthorp, buying director for Majestic Wine Warehouses, was considered “very efficient with a fantastic range.” He is recognised for setting commercially very aggressive price points with his range, which “reflects strong, commercially focused buying”.

Phil Edwards, Thresher Group's buying controller, also reached the top six. “He is open to all category management work and adds as much value to the branded offering in Wine Rack and Thresher stores for consumers,” says one supplier.

Star buyer
Fiona Bayley
Sainsbury's Spirits Buyer

Fiona Bayley has worked for Sainsbury's for over twenty years moving from trainee management into buying, where she has now worked for six years. In 2000 she took the role of tobacco buyer for the retailer, which led to the position of beer buyer including responsibility for cider and coinciding with the nation's growing interest in the drink. “I'm really pleased to have been responsible for getting Magners listed, which has gone from strength to strength,” she says. In January this year she moved into the role of spirits buyer dealing with bigger brands and a bigger budget.

Best of the Rest
Justin Apthorp
Majestic Wine buying director

Justin Apthorp has worked at Majestic since September 13, 1991, the day before he got married, and he has managed the wine retailer's buying department since 2002. Before he joined Majestic he was part of the senior management team at Wizard Wine, which separated from frozen food retailer Bejam after it was bought out by rival Iceland.

Phil Edwards
Buying controller, Thresher Group

Phil Edwards has worked for the Thresher Group for four and a half years. He began his career in wine back in 1991 when he worked for Laithwaites on its Bordeaux Direct concept. He had a short spell out of the wine industry during which time he trained as a buyer through other grocery channels. He then worked in the wine and spirits department at Booker and later in the wine buying team at Safeway. At Thresher he heads up the buying function.

Jane Pearson
Senior Buyer, Morrisons

Pearson currently looks after the spirits and fortified wine categories for Morrisons. She began her career at Morrisons in August 1991 as an administrator for the beers, wines and spirits department before moving into stock control. After this she took up a role as a trainee buyer for 18 months and she worked as a buyer for five years. Pearson has been a senior buyer for over three years.

Julian Dyer
Senior Buyer, Sainsbury's

Julian Dyer is responsible for wines from Australia and New Zealand at Sainsbury's. He joined the retailer's wine team in 1998 and he has looked after several countries during his time with the company. His first buying role was looking after Italy, South America and Eastern Europe. During his time working within the wine industry he studied for his WSET Diploma and passed this with honours.

Dee Blackstock, MW
Wine Buyer, Waitrose

Dee Blackstock's wine career began at Gerard Harris Fine Wines, attached to a Relais et Chateaux hotel in Buckinghamshire. She moved to Waitrose in 1991 and she became a Master of Wine the following year at her first attempt, making her one of only 251 people in the world to have achieved this qualification. At Waitrose she is responsible for the buying areas of Champagne, sparkling, Beaujolais, Burgundy, Australia and New Zealand. She is also one of four Masters of Wine on the Government Hospitality Advisory Committee for the purchase of wine.