The Co-operative steals supermarket crown as strongest non-discounter, according to Kantar figures - as grocery sector boosted by New Year healthkicks

Catherine Neilan
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We've gone nuts for fruit (Source: Getty)

The UK's struggling grocery sector has been given a shot in the arm from shoppers on a health kick, with sales up 0.2 per cent as consumers seek out fresh foods.

The Co-operative was the fastest growing supermarket, outside of the discounters, in the 12 weeks to 31 January - the first time it can claim such a victory since 2011.

The business grew sales 1.4 per cent, with own label up seven per cent, according to Kantar Worldpanel figures published this morning. Its market share remains stable at 5.9 per cent.

The Co-operative was the most frequently visited major supermarket during the period – customers shopped there an average of almost 19 times over the past 12 weeks, compared with a market average of 11 visits.

Sainsbury’s also recorded a positive period, which included the run-up to Christmas, growing by 0.6 per cent. Market share increased by 0.1 percentage points to 16.8 per cent. Sales have now risen for the sixth period in row.

Tesco is also showing signs of improvement, with revenues falling by a relatively small 1.6 per cent, the best numbers since September of last year.

At Morrisons, the sales decline lessened to 2.2 per cent, although market share fell by 0.3 percentage points to 10.8 per cent.

"The retailer’s revenues will continue to reflect its disposal of 140 M Local stores and the closure of some larger outlets through the rest of 2016," Kantar said.

Asda was the worst performer of the bunch, with sales falling by 3.8 per cent and share falling back to 16.2 per cent.

Naturally, Aldi and Lidl defy trends across the rest of the sector, with sales up 13.7 per cent and 18.7 per cent respectively.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “Consumers are clearly striving for a healthier start to the year and have turned to fresh foods – particularly fruit and vegetables, which have both grown sales by five per cent.

"Given that they’re still experiencing like-for-like deflation it’s a significant revenue growth for both categories, shared across both traditional and discount retailers. Similar growth has been seen in nuts, fresh poultry and fish.”

Of Aldi and Lidl, he added: "We can expect both retailers to continue to take market share this year as they fulfil their plans for more outlets.”

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