Besides the usual straight talking and honesty, commitment to long-term growth and support for resistance to promotional deals are valued most highly.
In a tight contest, Ben Davies from The Co-operative Group - a new name to the Six of the Best roll of honour - edged into the top slot, narrowly beating another newcomer, Sainsbury's Helena Watson.
Three of the other high scorers have been featured in the section previously. Tesco's Wendy White won the frozen food title last year, while Amanda Sprowson from Waitrose topped the ice cream buyers' pile in March. Jenny Clarke, who has just been appointed as frozen buyer for the new Kwik Save (BTTF Group), has also appeared before in a role with The Co-operative Group. Gareth Thomas from Iceland, like Davies and Watson, is a Six of the Best debutant.
Davies has impressed fans with his experience, strategic approach and the fact that he considers frozen food's long-term health and supports moves away from frequent deep-cut promotional activity. He is also singled out for being co-operative, helpful and willing to try new ideas. “He is great at his job,” says one supporter.
Watson is valued for her experience, along with her approachable and professional style. The ability to listen and evaluate proposals scores highly too. “She's honest in negotiations and ranging decisions and follows through once commitment has been made,” according to a fan.
White gets a glowing report from her supporters. “She's always businesslike and professional,” says one. “A promise is a promise and she always sticks to her word. She's a pleasure to do business with.”
Sprowson is praised for being firm but fair. “She is honest and to the point,” says one supplier.
Clarke's communication skills are the highpoint for her fans. According to one, she is “approachable, professional and prepared to listen, easy to contact and always returns calls”, while another praised her determination to follow through.
Thomas is also praised for his professional approach, although suppliers are aware that he's no pushover. “Tough but fair” is how one supporter describes him.
Star Buyer - Ben Davies
Frozen pizza, meat and meat-free products and savoury pastry buyer
The Co-operative Group
Davies has been in his current role for only six months but has obviously made an impact. Previously, he spent four years at Sainsbury's, which he joined in 2001 on the graduate marketing scheme. He moved to buying pretty quickly and had responsibility for hot pies and quiche before becoming senior buyer for pizza and sauces. He sees the frozen arena as a challenge but says public perception is beginning to change.
Best of the Rest
Ice cream and frozen desserts buyer, Sainsbury's
Watson has been in her current role for almost a year but has previously traded in petfood, soft drinks and fresh and processed fish products, having joined Sainsbury's in 2000 on the graduate trading training programme. Before that she studied psychology and business at Edinburgh University. She says she always had her sights set on a career in food retail.
Tesco ice cream and desserts buyer
White began her career in buying at the age of 18, working for Fisher Foods as a packaging buyer. She moved to the retail sector in October 2001, becoming a vegetable buyer with Iceland. She took up her current post at Tesco two and a half years ago.
Senior buyer frozen fish and meat products, Iceland
Thomas is an experienced buyer, having spent ten years in various roles, all with Iceland, where he started his retail career on the graduate training scheme. He did six-month stints in various functions but opted for the variety of a buying role. He has covered frozen products for two and a half years, but spent five years trading in grocery.
Buyer frozen food, Kwik Save (BTTF Group)
Clarke joined the BTTF Group three months ago and her role involves buying across the frozen food category. She started her career with The Co-operative Group 26 years ago, spending a decade in administration, before becoming trainee buyer for meat and poultry, followed by frozen and confectionery, and a year on international cuisine, covering sauces, rice and noodles.
Frozen desserts buyer, Waitrose
Sprowson has been buying ice cream and frozen desserts for two years and added savoury lines to her remit in February. She joined Waitrose after five years with Safeway, where she was a meat buyer, but she started her career at Sainsbury's three years previously, enrolling on the graduate training programme.