Take-home grocery sales in Ireland grew by 17% in the four weeks to 21 February, with shoppers spending an additional €151.1 million, new data from Kantar has revealed.
It is the highest monthly increase since November 2020, when Irish consumers spent an extra €164 million on groceries.
In the past 12 weeks, sales of flour, eggs, and syrup grew by 56%, 21%, and 14%, respectively, as Pancake Day provided entertainment for all ages.
February also brought Valentines' Day and Shrove Tuesday, and consumers continued to make the most of events they could safely celebrate at home in lockdown, Kantar added.
Emer Healy, retail analyst at Kantar, commented, "As we approach a full year since the first national lockdown in Ireland, we can see how the months of restaurant and bar closures, working from home, and homeschooling have added up.
"All those extra meals and snacks at home have led to an extra €2 billion spent on take-home groceries, including Irish shoppers splashing out €7.6 million on tea and €19.5 million on instant coffee to get their fix at home. Totting it all up, the average household grocery bill has increased by €1,000 this year."
February was another record-breaking month for online grocery, accounting for 6.3% of all sales – an extraordinary uplift compared with the pre-pandemic level of 2.7%
Consumers ordered €63 million worth of online groceries in this period.
Healy added, "Lockdown may well have converted some previously reluctant digital customers long term – 241,500 people made an order in February, compared with 114,800 last year. They are also using services more often, completing 21.7% more digital orders a month."
The phased reopening of schools in March and the anticipated opening of the hospitality sector in the future will impact take-home grocery sales in the coming months, Kantar said.
Healy explained, "The 12-month milestone is significant for retailers as it means we start to compare sales against the record-breaking levels of the start of the pandemic in March 2020, and we will see year-on-year growth decline from next month as a result.
"Children heading back to school will be welcome news for exhausted parents and will also mean demand for take-home groceries starts to ease, something that will likely accelerate once offices and restaurants return. We'll see more typical sales patterns remerge, and we'll need to keep an eye on other metrics of performance to gauge how retailers are moving out of lockdown, including market share figures."
SuperValu emerged as Ireland's top retailer with a 22.3% market share and 20.9% sales growth.
It was the only retailer to attract new shoppers into its stores, and its customers traded up, spending €70 million more on branded goods compared to the same period last year.
With a market share of 22.1%, Dunnes Stores saw 9.7% growth in sales in this period as customers picked up extra items and continued to spend more per buyer compared to other retailers.
Lidl was once again the fastest-growing retailer with sales growth of 21.8%, with basket sizes increasing by 14.9% year-on-year.
Aldi customers spent an additional €57.1 million this period, resulting in 13.4% growth.
Shoppers at Tesco added 3.6 additional items to their baskets this period, more than customers at any other retailer, boosting the grocer's overall sales by 18.0%.