Grocery sales fell by 2.2% in the 12 weeks ending 3 October compared to the same time last year when "extraordinary" levels of shopping were seen during Covid-19 lockdowns.

But the latest figures from Kantar show that grocery spending still remains 9.4% higher than in 2019.

Kantar said the lifting of social restrictions and high vaccination rates mean shoppers are more comfortable going out to shops, while at the same time people's social calendars are starting to fill again.

"More socialising means we're living less regimented lives, and with more eating at restaurants, pubs and on the go, the reliance which many had on supermarkets to get their meals last year is starting to fade," Emer Healy, retail analyst at Kantar, said.

"That is evidenced in the latest four week ending data, which shows supermarket trips are falling by 4.5% year on year and the amount bought per visit is also down 0.9%," Ms Healy said.

She also noted that busier routines and less time to shop in store means that many people have turned again to online shopping. The latest four weeks saw online sales jump 7.1% year on year, adding €3m to the market.

Today's figures also indicate that consumers are eager to make the most of relaxed restrictions to enjoy calendar milestones this year, including Halloween.

Sales of pumpkins have already soared 32.1% over the past 12 weeks compared to last year, while sugar confectionery and share bags of chocolate are up 6.4% and 15.3% respectively, as people get ready for trick or treaters.

Kantar's latest supermarket figures

Kantar said that SuperValu continues to hold the largest share of the grocery market this month at 22.3%. Its shoppers visited more frequently than any other retailer – on average 21 times in the past 12 weeks.

Dunnes was the only retailer to recruit new shoppers during the latest 12 week period as both it and Tesco were boosted from sales of premium items.

"Dunnes typically has its most successful months in the autumn as shoppers favour branded items and take shelter from the elements in its shopping centre locations. New customers contributed an additional €26.2m to its performance and Dunnes now accounts for 21.9% of grocery sales," Emer Healy said.

"Tesco's market share increased 0.5 percentage points to 21.4% and it also enjoyed success through branded items - it saw customers spend an additional €13m on well-known names this period," she added.

Meanwhile, Aldi was boosted by store openings across the country and welcomed a second consecutive month with a record-breaking share which now stands at 12.8%. It grew especially well in Connacht and Ulster, with sales up 6.9%, the strongest among all retailers.

Lidl held its share steady at 12.7% this period.

Meanwhile, today's figures from Kantar show grocery market inflation stands at 0.6% for the 12-week period ending October 3 - the highest level of inflation since March 2021.

The main categories that saw the highest increase in average price were healthcare, hot beverages and frozen food which rose by 8%, 5.1% and 4.6% respectively.