New figures from Kantar show that hand wash products, including sanitisers, grew by 15% in the 12 weeks to 23 February.

Kantar said this represented strong, but not dramatic, growth.

It said it expects to see more of an impact on supermarket sales towards the end of February and into March, as increased awareness of the virus will likely lead to an uplift in sales of healthcare products.  

This coupled with the impact of Storm Jorge in late February may well lead to growing sales of goods typically associated with stockpiling like pasta and tinned or frozen food, the data, insights and consulting company said. 

Kantar said the Irish grocery market maintained steady growth of 1.3% during the 12 weeks to 23 February 2020. 

It noted that retailers capitalised on the most romantic day of the year, which provided a welcome boost for grocers.  

Sales of chocolates and gifts were up by 13% over the four weeks to 23 February, while other traditional Valentine's day categories, including wine and chilled ready meals - grew by 6%.  

"Sweethearts were savvy with their money and sales of products on deal doubled compared to the same period last year," Charlotte Scott, consumer insight director at Kantar, said.

She noted that Dunnes, Tesco and SuperValu all contributed to the boost in promotional activity, increasing sales of boxed chocolates on offer by 23%, 22% and 18% respectively.

Dunnes retained its top spot on the Irish grocers' rankings with a market share of 23.5% in the latest period under review.

Its performance was led by success in key staple categories, with sales of fresh produce up 3% and an uptick of 12% in bread sales, Kantar said.

Tesco held its position as the second largest retailer in Ireland with a market share of 21.5%.  Shoppers visited Tesco stores more frequently, with trips rising 2.5%, and filled baskets in particular with convenience goods. 

Prepared fruit and vegetables, as well as ready meals, were standout categories for Tesco, up by 19% and 3% respectively.

Meanwhile, SuperValu managed to increase its market share to 21.4% as it benefited from a wider market uplift in organic food sales of 12%, as the number of baskets across all retailers containing organic goods rose by 9% year on year.

Today's figures show that Lidl remained the fastest growing retailer this period, increasing its market share to 11.5%.  Kantar said that Lidl benefited from shoppers maintaining healthy habits, with fruit sales rising by an additional €2.3m. 

Aldi was hot on Lidl's heels as it continued to gain share as shoppers chose to put more in baskets, with one in every two customers adding an additional item compared to the same 12 weeks last year.