The latest supermarket share figures from Kantar Worldpanel in Ireland, published for the 12 weeks ending January 4, show it was the best Christmas for the Irish grocery market since 2010, as sales grew by 1.1%.

Georgieann Harrington, insight director at Kantar Worldpanel, says growing confidence in the economy meant shoppers relaxed the purse strings this Christmas, visiting supermarkets more often in the seasonal period than last year.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, festive shoppers reached for the treats, and sales of confectionery grew by 6%, crisps and snacks were up by 3% and soft drinks enjoyed a 2% sales growth.”

Competition for market share remains fierce in the grocery sector, with less than 2 percentage points separating the big three retailers. Tesco continues to hold the top spot with 25.4% and reported its best performance since May 2013, thanks to an increase in customers.

Following closely behind is Supervalu, which holds 25% market share of the grocery sector and enjoyed a 0.3% increase in sales. Almost three-quarters of all Irish households visited the retailer in the past 12 weeks, with 52,000 new shoppers enticed through the doors by its value-for-money positioning. Despite a decline in footfall, Dunnes posted seasonal sales almost exactly in line with last year.

Elsewhere in the market, Lidl and Aldi topped off an excellent year with sales growth of 15.0% and 12.2% respectively. A strong Christmas extends an impressive run that has seen each retailer enjoy double digit sales growth for 14 successive months.

Georgieann Harrington said the battle for market share looks set to continue well into 2015. “With the top three retailers separated by the narrowest of margins, it really is all to play for in the coming months.”