Total till grocery sales in the UK jumped to 11.1% in the four weeks to 25 February, up from 7.6% recorded in January, as food inflation (14.5% in February) continued to accelerate, according to new data from NIQ, previously known as NielsenIQ.
The study revealed that total till sales growth continued despite a lack of availability in a few fresh produce categories, which impacted sales in the last two weeks.
In the fresh produce segment, total value sales grew by 1.1%, with a unit decline of 5.4%.
Unit sales of tomatoes declined by 17.6%, with vine tomatoes (down 28.9%) and peppers (down 16.8%) among the worst affected.
Elsewhere, value sales for products that were available, such as lettuce (13.7%) and cucumber (31.8%) increased despite limited availability, data showed.
Volumes at the grocery multiples fell by 4.1% in the latest four-week period, indicating that coping strategies implemented by shoppers and additional private-label price cuts by retailers are helping to alleviate the impact of inflation on shopping baskets.
While volumes are down compared to the same period in 2022, they remain almost unchanged over the last 12 weeks (down 4.0%), NIQ noted.
Mike Watkins, NIQ’s UK head of retailer and business insight said, "Promotional spend continues to be low and stable at 20% of all FMCG sales, with longer-term price cuts and price locks now favoured by retailers and preferred by shoppers to short-term promotions.
"This also helps give shoppers more price transparency across different retailers which is important when prices are increasing."
Value growth at the grocery multiples rose to 8.2% as shoppers spent for Valentine’s Day and over the February half-term.
Sales of chocolate boxes(+23%), fresh roses (+20%), and mixed floral bunches (+14%) and sparkling wine (+4%) increased as people celebrated Valentine’s Day at home.
Watkins added, "The attractive pricing around Valentine’s meal offers gave a boost to some discretionary categories, which suggests that shoppers are still looking to trade up for special events and spend on treats and indulgences, provided they can make savings on everyday grocery items."
In-store visits increased by 8.7% and sales at stores were up 13.1%, while online sales fell by 2.5% due to fewer shoppers and a reduction in spending.
Online's share of FMCG sales dipped to 10.9% compared with Total Till figures in February 2022, with shopping behaviour continuing to change post-pandemic.
Discounters Aldi (up 25.6%) and Lidl (up 21.1%) continued to gain market share, while convenience store value sales grew by 8%, with volume sales up 1.4%.
According to NIQ, this is an indication that some shoppers prefer to visit convenience stores to limit their overall grocery spend.
Watkins stated, "Discounters sales continue to accelerate and we currently have the fastest growth in this channel over the last decade.
"With food and drink inflation not expected to slow just yet and shoppers paying more for all essential items (including their energy bills) we can expect lower prices - in particular, supermarkets’ own-label ranges - to be the key messaging from all retailers over the next four to six months."