The Irish grocery market experienced its busiest ever period over the 12 weeks to March 22 - increasing year-on-year sales by 10.1%. 

Growth in the four weeks to March 22 was nearly three times higher, with shopper spend jumping by 27%, the latest figures from Kantar show. 

This made March the biggest month of grocery sales ever recorded, Kantar said.

Today's figures show that grocery sales reached €2.8 billion in the past 12 weeks. This topped last year's figures by €250m and exceeded the previous peak seen at Christmas 2019.  

Kantar said the average household spent an additional €122 on groceries during the four weeks to 22 March, mainly driven by shoppers buying bigger baskets of groceries. 

Last year, 15% of households made a shopping trip containing €120 or more of groceries, but this year that figure almost doubled to 27% this year. 

At the top of the list for many shoppers were personal hygiene products and non-perishable foods.

Sales of hand soap rose by 300% and household cleaners were up by 170% in the four weeks to March 22.  

Facial tissues and toilet roll were also in demand, with sales up by 140% and 86% respectively. 

Food items with a longer shelf life also saw a big rise in sales last month. Sales of frozen and ambient foods - those foodstuffs that can be stored at room temperature - increased by 32%.  

But demand for fresh food has been more modest, growing by 16% over the last four weeks.

"While we'd expect sales to remain strong in the coming weeks and months, there will likely be a rebalancing of sales of fresh and non-perishable items as shoppers with full freezers and cupboards replenish fresh supplies," commented David Berry, managing director at Kantar.

Today's figures also show that more consumers placed an online order in the four weeks to March 22, with about one in 10 households using the service. 25,000 more shoppers purchased groceries online than last Christmas - the previous peak - and 54,000 more than the same time in 2019.  

Meanwhile, Dunnes, SuperValu and Tesco each saw sales increase by just over 10% in the 12 week period. 

While the three grocers hold almost equal market share, Dunnes has the largest portion at 22.3%, with SuperValu and Tesco following closely at 21.3%. 

Lidl was the fastest growing of all the retailers during the 12 weeks, boosting sales by 14.7% and increasing its market share to 12.3%.  Aldi matched Lidl's market share and grew sales by 11.9%.

"Over the past month we have faced profound changes to our daily lives as a result of the need for social distancing, impacting the way we work, shop and socialise," David Berry said.

"Retailers and their staff have risen to an enormous challenge since restrictions on movement were announced on 12 March.  They have been on the frontline as households across Ireland prepared to spend more time at home, with more mouths to feed," he added.