Grocery market growth in Ireland slowed to 1.9% in the 12 weeks ending 18 April, new figures from Kantar show today.

In the most recent four weeks, sales declined by 3.3% compared with the same time last year, when shoppers were preparing for the first national Covid-19 lockdown and bigger shopping trips generated record-breaking sales for the supermarkets.

Kantar noted that while growth may have dipped year on year in April, the market is still some way from normal and take-home grocery spending remains an incredible 19.4% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

With restrictions still firmly in place and most of us eating all our meals at home, the average household grocery bill was €245.10 higher in past 12 weeks than in 2019, Kantar added.

While Ireland remains in lockdown, there are signs of growing consumer confidence this month.

"As the vaccine rollout continues, Irish shoppers are beginning to venture out more and they visited the supermarket an additional 3,992,538 times in the past four weeks compared with this time last year. This is the most shopping trips in a month since March 2020," commented Emer Healy, retail analyst at Kantar.

"The mostly vaccinated over 65s are leading the return and increased their visits to bricks-and-mortar stores by 13.7% compared with this time last year - ahead of the national rate of 8.9%," she added.

Kantar also noted that sales of Easter eggs shot up by 17.4% this year compared with 2020, with sales of premium eggs soaring by 21.7%.

Consumers also spent an extra €5.5m on roast beef and €6.5m on vegetables over Easter.

Today's figures show that SuperValu continued to hold the largest share of the grocery market at 22.5%, its highest level since June.

Tesco's sales increased by 2%, as the grocer attracted new customers through its doors to boost sales by €1.1m.

Dunnes accounted for 21.1% of grocery sales in the 12 week period to 18 April. As new regulations that restrict alcohol promotions through customer loyalty schemes come into force, Dunnes has seen its share of alcohol sales drop by 2.8 percentage points in the past 12 weeks.

Meanwhile, Lidl received the most significant boost from people making extra, smaller shops this month. Basket-sized trips increased by 8.8% year on year at the retailer, helping it to achieve the fastest growth this period.

Aldi held 12% of the market as shoppers continued to pick up additional items in store.

Emer Healy also said that online grocery sales grew by 29.3% in the past four weeks. While still high, that marked the slowest rate in a year as people added slightly fewer items to their digital orders and felt more comfortable going to the shops to fill up their cupboards.

Online grocery accounted for 5.6% of sales in the past 12 weeks - a significant jump from the pre-pandemic level of 2.5% - and 16.5% of Irish households placed an order during this period.

"With all retailers now offering some form of digital service, either directly or through partnerships with delivery platforms, many shoppers have been converted to the ease of online grocery long term and will continue to balance it with smaller in-store shops in the future," she added.