Dunnes has retained its position at the top of the supermarket rankings with a 22.8% share of the market here in the 12 weeks to December 1.

New figures from Kantar show that SuperValu extended its lead over Tesco as the country's second biggest grocer with a market share of 21.6% compared to Tesco's share of 21.3%.

Meanwhile, Aldi is the country's fastest growing retailer at 7.9%, although this is a drop back from the 9.6% it saw in the previous period with its market share standing at 12.2%.

Kantar also said that Lidl's growth rate climbed to 5.8%, which helped to lift its market share to 11.6%.

Kantar said that Dunnes' growth slowed slightly in the latest 12 weeks under review, but noted that it was gaining traction outside of its usual Dublin heartland, growing strongly in Connacht and Ulster where it has historically held a smaller share.

A strong month overall for SuperValu saw it pull ahead of Tesco in the rankings as both retailers typically increase their shares in the run up to Christmas as shoppers look for familiar names and brands. 

Kantar said that SuperValu's highest share since January is largely thanks to shopper penetration, which increased this period having fallen last month. 

It said this coincided with the retailer announcing its new loyalty scheme with Visa in November, which designed to appeal to existing shoppers while also attracting new customers.

Charlotte Scott, consumer insight director at Kantar, said that as the countdown to Christmas begins, shoppers are already starting to splash out on old favourites. 

She said that sales of seasonal biscuits have grown by 16% in the latest 12 weeks alone. 

"Tesco has been the standout performer in that category and the retailer has sold twice as many so far this year as it had by the same point in 2018," Ms Scott added.

She also said that retailers have bet on confectionery with large seasonal tubs of chocolate on shelves earlier than in previous years. 

In turn, shoppers have cashed in and confectionery sales are showing no signs of slowing down having already added €8.8m of spend to the market this year compared to last. 

"SuperValu has been the real winner, growing the value of its sales in the category by 31.1%," Ms Scott noted.

The latest Kantar figures also show that grocery sales grew by 2.3%, slightly slower than last month.

But it said that shoppers are expected to start stocking up as the countdown to Christmas begins in earnest.