New figures show today that grocery sales fell by 4.8% over the 12 weeks to October 31 from the same time last year.

But the latest Kantar figures show that growth is still strong compared with pre-pandemic levels and sales were up 8.9% compared to the equivalent time in 2019.

Kantar said that Irish shoppers spent €86.1m less on groceries in October compared with the same time last year when the country was in lockdown.

It noted that October brought the full easing of Covid-19 restrictions as well as a bank holiday weekend and shoppers made the most of their newfound freedoms.

"Dining out is firmly back on the table, bringing a welcome boost to the hospitality sector as friends and families returned to bars and restaurants. With fewer meals eaten around the kitchen table, we've seen supermarket sales drop by 8.4% in the latest four weeks," it added.

Fuller schedules has also meant more mixing and socialising with other people, bringing with it the usual seasonal bugs.

Kantar said that health remains at the forefront of people's minds and shoppers are stocking up on flu treatments and cough lozenges which saw sales soar by 56% and 36% respectively in the past month.

Halloween trick or treating was also back on the agenda this year and shoppers put in extra effort to mark the occasion. Sales of pumpkins soared by 59% and an extra €2m was spent on confectionery over the past 12 weeks.

Emer Healy, retail analyst at Kantar, also said that Christmas has arrived in the supermarket aisles.

Ms Healy noted that sales of seasonal biscuits and chocolate are up by 6.2% and 17.4% year on year. Fresh turkey and stuffing also benefited and shoppers have already spent an extra €280,000 and €192,000 on the Christmas dinner must-haves.

Meanwhile, the ongoing growth of online grocery, which accelerated when shoppers were locked down at home, shows no sign of slowing down and sales grew by 2.2% this month.

"The data suggests that ecommerce has become a lifeline for many people as they adjust to busier routines. Online has won long-term converts but also continues to attract new shoppers, with online shopping novices contributing an additional €1.3m to the sector's overall performance," Emer Healy stated.

Today's figures from Kantar also show that Dunnes tops the table as the largest grocer this period with a 22.6% share of the market.

Dunnes, which is historically popular during the festive season, attracted a significant number of new shoppers through its doors in the latest 12 weeks, adding €24.2m to its overall growth.

Aldi announced an extensive vegan range for Christmas 2021 in a bid to win customers in the coming months. The grocer proved especially popular with young families who spent an extra €200,000 in store. Aldi boosted its market share by 0.4 percentage points to 12.7% over the past 12 weeks.

Meanwhile, SuperValu holds a 22% share of the market as its shoppers made an average of 20 trips to the grocer over the past 12 weeks, the highest figure among all the retailers.

Tesco holds a 21.3% share, helped by the recruitment of new shoppers as well as more frequent visits from existing customers.

Lidl held its market share steady at 12.7%, today's figures show.