Almost a quarter of Irish households say they are struggling to make ends meet with their weekly food shop, with take-home grocery sales in the Republic plunging 7.2 per cent year-on-year in the 12 weeks to April 17th, new figures from Kantar show.
The research firm said a survey of more than 2,600 consumers conducted in March found that 23 per cent were feeling the pinch on grocery shopping amid the highest level of inflation in almost nine years and against a backdrop of global supply chain difficulties.
Prices have risen again since then. Grocery price inflation has reached 4.7 per cent, Kantar said, the sharpest pace of increase in prices since September 2013. The average household is facing a rise of €330 on its annual grocery bill as a result, with cooked poultry, bread, pasta and butter among the foods to see the biggest jumps.
"The impact of grocery inflation is being felt widely across store shelves, and consumers will be noticing the effects on their budgets," said Kantar senior retail analyst Emer Healy.
All the major retailers saw take-home grocery sales fall in the 12-week period, although Dunnes Stores limited the year-on-year decline to just 0.7 per cent. It retained its position as Ireland's largest grocer, maintaining its market share at 22.4 per cent. The retailer was bolstered during the period by the largest influx of new shoppers, who contributed an additional €56.8 million to its overall performance, Kantar said.
SuperValu remained in second place with a share of 21.8 per cent, ahead of Tesco, which closed the gap between the two chains with a 21.7 per cent share. Lidl and Aldi now have 13 per cent and 12.1 per cent of the market respectively.
Dunnes and Lidl are the only supermarkets to have increased market share over the past year.
Grocery sales at Dunnes, SuperValu, Tesco, Lidl and Aldi remain ahead of where they stood in the same period in 2019 before the pandemic but sales at other outlets – a group including Marks & Spencer, Boots, Spar, Centra, greengrocers, butchers and cross-Border shops – are lower than they were pre-pandemic.
The number of supermarket trips made each month has continued to fall, Kantar said, with shoppers making 3.5 fewer visits on average than this time last year, even though Covid-19 restrictions were much tighter then.
The average spend per buyer has also fallen significantly by €144 as consumers eat more meals out of the home.
The types of items consumers are purchasing has also changed, Ms Healy said.
“Sales of instant hot snacks and frozen pizzas are growing by 9 per cent and 4.3 per cent respectively over the last four weeks as shoppers turn to quick and easy meals now that many of us are back in the office and juggling school runs again.”
The online market continued to grow over the latest four-week period, with sales boosted by 3.9 per cent as shoppers spent an additional €2 million, Kantar said.
The online channel’s market share is now 3.3 percentage points higher than it was in the same 52-week period in 2019.
“Many people became more reliant on online shopping over the course of the pandemic, and this has fitted in quite naturally with our busier schedules post-Covid. In the context of rising prices, it also allows consumers to be more considerate as they add items to their basket,” Ms Healy said, reducing the risk of impulse buys.
“While people are buying less in stores, the average number of items being purchased online is actually on the rise, growing by 3.2 per cent year on year.”
Kantar’s findings are based on its monitoring of the household grocery purchasing habits of 5,000 demographically representative households in the Republic. The surveys are conducted online with a consumer panel.