Grocery sales in Ireland declined by 5.7% year-on-year during the 12 weeks to 13 June 2021, according to the latest data from Kantar.
Warmer weather and the return of outdoor hospitality resulted in a 7% year-on-year decline in grocery sales in the recent four weeks, Kantar added.
The market has continued to annualise against the extraordinary spending in supermarkets during the first lockdown last year, it said.
Emer Healy, retail analyst at Kantar, described the trend as "early signs of newfound freedoms in Irish shopping baskets," and added, "Grocery sales may be lower than last year, but we are still a far cry from normal life.
“Spending in the latest 12 weeks was an incredible 17.6% higher than before the pandemic, and the average Irish household spent €218 more on groceries than 2019.”
In the latest 12 week period, sales of home-cooking ingredients like oils, herbs and spices, and ready-made sauces declined by 14.9%, and shoppers spent €94.4 million less on alcohol in supermarkets.
Healy noted, "With outdoor hospitality returning on 7 June, people have finally been able to enjoy a night away from the kitchen.
"It’s clear that we’re edging back to eating and drinking out, but sales of take-home alcohol are still a whopping 36.4% higher than before the pandemic and, now that people can visit friends at home, some of their spendings will have been redirected to on-the-go purchases, which are not captured in this data."
The reopening of hospitality coincided with a spell of warmer weather after an unseasonably cold May, Kantar noted.
Sales of sun care products were up by 58% compared with the previous month, and shoppers spent €948,000 more on ice cream and €566,000 more on burgers and grilling food than in May.
Store visits increased by 1.7% in June, while basket sizes shrank by 8.1%.
Elsewhere, online sales witnessed their first decline since March of last year, with a 4.4% drop in the most recent four weeks.
Retired households drove this change and spent €2.4 million less online than last year, indicating a rise in confidence among shoppers as the vaccine rollout continues.
Healy commented, "Warmer temperatures and vaccine numbers mean many of us are feeling happier to pop to the shops and make more frequent, smaller trips."
SuperValu retained its leadership position among Irish grocers in the latest 12 weeks, with a 22.3% share of the grocery market.
The retailer benefited from shoppers visiting stores more often than this time last year, adding an extra €75.4 million to its takings, Kantar said.
"SuperValu’s phenomenal growth during the past year will mean some tough comparisons in the next few months. However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the longer-term context – the supermarket has grown by 24.2% since 2019, well ahead of the overall market at 17.6%," Healy stated.
Tesco retained second position with a market share of 21.4%, as new shoppers contributed an additional €29.2 million to its overall performance.
With a 21.2% market share in the grocery trade, Dunnes Stores also welcomed new shoppers during this period, while existing customers returned to the retailer an additional 1,800,000 times.
Lidl saw year-on-year growth of 0.7 percentage points to acquire a 12.9% market share in the latest 12 weeks. Aldi’s market share was 12.3%.
Both discounters benefited from the return to stores and a slight shift away from online shopping in this period.