The latest figures from Kantar show the grocery market achieved modest 0.3 per cent growth during the past 12 weeks as January once again brought consumer commitments to Dry January and Veganuary.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “Many people start the year with good intentions and pledges to make healthier choices following the excesses of the festive period.
“Those who committed to drinking less in January helped the retailers boost sales of non-alcoholic beer by 37 per cent and adult soft drinks by 3 per cent, as shoppers reached for alternatives to their favourite tipples.
“Of course, not everyone has been abstaining, and more than 15 million households still bought alcohol during the past four weeks.”
The retailers welcomed the return of Veganuary by launching a number of new product lines including ‘Gro’ from Co-op, ‘Plant based’ from Asda and Waitrose & Partners’ vegan range.
Mr McKevitt added: “It’s clear the Veganuary campaign is having an impact. More than twice as many consumers bought one of the supermarkets’ explicitly labelled plant-based products in January 2020 compared with the festivity-filled December 2019.
“Sales of meat substitutes such as soya mince or vegetarian burgers and sausages were 14 per cent higher than January last year, while sales of lentils were up 6 per cent, lettuce 10 per cent and aubergine 14 per cent.”
Health was the most popular reason for people getting involved in Veganuary, cited by 42 per cent of participants, followed by environmental concerns (28 per cent) and ethical reasons (27 per cent).
Mr McKevitt added: “Nearly half of people giving up meat and dairy in January did so because they perceive it as a healthy choice.
“However, the plant-based food boom is not primarily caused by a rise in the number of people following strict vegan diets – vegans still make up just 2 per cent of the population and only 5 per cent of us are vegetarian.
“Instead the trend is being driven by many people making small changes and trying to eat more plant-based meals and the retailers are responding accordingly.”
Among the individual retailers, Ocado’s market share increased by 0.2 percentage points to 1.4 per cent.
Mr McKevitt added: “Ocado was once again Britain’s fastest growing grocer with sales 11.2% higher than this time last year. More than half of the online retailer’s sales come from customers in London and the South of England, but its quickest growth is actually found outside of this heartland in the North of England where its sales were 17% higher than the same time last year.”
Lidl also achieved double digit growth, up by 11.1 per cent year on year.
Mr McKevitt added: “Branded items account for a small but growing part of the discounter’s sales, with household favourites in cleaning and confectionery contributing to a 19% increase during the past 12 weeks.
“Meanwhile, Aldi increased sales by 5.7 per cent , growing both chilled ready meals and spirits by 12 per cent . A key factor in the advance of the discounters has been their ability to attract additional shoppers, each welcoming more than 800,000 extra visitors through their doors in the past year, supported by strong store opening programmes.”
Sainsbury’s was again the best performing of the big four retailers as its sales fell by 0.6 per cent and its market share was marginally lower as result.
Sainsbury’s now accounts for 15.8 per cent of the market, down from 15.9 per cent at the same point last year.
While still declining, Sainsbury’s performance is improving, and online sales were a bright spot – growing by 7 per cent year on year.
Morrisons continued to lose market share, down from 10.6 per cent last year to 10.3 per cent in the past 12 weeks, according to Kantar.
Mr McKevitt added: “Morrisons is bucking the trend in the overall grocery market, where fewer groceries are being purchased on deal, conducting 47 per cent of its sales through some type of promotion during the past 12 weeks, a 1.3 percentage point increase on last year’s level.”
Asda’s sales declined by 2.2 per cent and its market share fell back to 14.9 per cent .
However, its upmarket ‘Extra Special’ range proved popular with customers and achieved double-digit sales growth, expanding most notably in fresh meat, crisps and alcohol.
Co-op continued its run of growth, which stretches back to May 2018, with sales up by 2.7 per cent. The convenience retailer’s share rose by 0.1 percentage points to 6.0 per cent.
Meanwhile, Tesco’s market share dropped by 0.4 percentage points to 27.3 per cent and sales were 0.9 per cent lower than a year ago.
Iceland’s sales grew ahead of the overall market at 1.4 per cent and its share held steady as a result. Waitrose’s sales were 1.5 per cent lower than that same period last year and its market share slipped from 5.1 per cent to 5.0 per cent.