All of the country's major supermarkets recorded positive growth in the 12 weeks to November 3, with Dunnes again the largest retailer, new figures from Kantar show.

Kantar said that Dunnes' growth of 4.4% was again the fastest among the three biggest retailers and it increased its market share by 0.4 percentage points, bringing it to 22.8%. 

Charlotte Scott, consumer insight director at Kantar, said that typically Dunnes performs well during the festive season as shoppers trade up and are willing to spend more on premium items. 

"Last Christmas the retailer recorded its highest market share since March 2013 and having been top of the retailer rankings for over a year now, it will be looking to break that record this December," Ms Scott said. 

Kantar noted that both SuperValu and Tesco performed well over Halloween, recording an additional €6m of confectionery sales collectively. 

Supervalu remains the second biggest supermarket in Ireland with a 21.2% market share, while Tesco is close behind with a 21.1% market share.

Meahwile, Aldi and Lidl enjoyed the fastest growth in the market this period, with sales increasing by 9.6% and 4.9% respectively. 

Kantar said that Aldi has placed increased focus on brands in recent months, and as a result branded sales have increased by 34.2%. 

Meanwhile, Lidl capitalised on the growing popularity of meat-free alternatives by introducing vegan burgers and sausages to stores across the country. Over 40% of shoppers bought a vegetarian product in the latest 12 weeks while meat-free burgers and grills have grown by 7.7% year on year, Kantar said. 

Kantar's figures show that while overall market growth remained strong at 2.6% in the latest period under review, it was marginally slower than last month's figure as consumers cut back spending ahead of the run up to Christmas. 

"The slight deceleration in the past 12 weeks is largely down to shoppers being wary of spending and holding back slightly ahead of the big Christmas rush," commented Ms Scott. 

"This month saw price per pack drop by 1%, indicating that customers traded down in order to manage their spend.

"However, with Halloween now finished, we're already seeing evidence of people getting in the festive spirit as 6.5% of us have bought a mince pie - worth €383,000 to retailers so far this year," she said.

Ms Scott also said that while inclement weather can typically dampen moods in the grocery sector, recent rain has failed to make too much of an impact.  

"Retailers have responded well to this year's cold and wet October by pushing additional sales of classic winter warmer categories. Fresh soup grew by 9.9% this period, while hot drinks are up 7.7%," she said.

Biscuits also benefited from those additional cups of tea and coffee, growing at 2.9%, with Tesco reaping the most reward from the trend, as biscuit sales at the retailer grew by 10.8%.