Supermarket prices rose at an annual 2.3% during the pandemic -- the fastest rate since August last year -- as spending on grocery items surged by over 25% to €3.2bn.
The figures come from the regular survey by market researcher Kantar and cover the 12 weeks of sales up to May 17, when the lockdown was in its first month and includes the pre-lockdown sales in early March when many households rushed to stock up on household goods.
However, Kantar suggests that as the early stockpiles have been depleted that the record sales for supermarkets had continued into the first weeks of the lockdown. With pubs and hairdressers close, sales of alcohol almost doubled and hair care products were exceptionally strong.
The biggest winners from the sales splurge were SuperValu, Lidl and Aldi, which increased their market shares by record amounts in the latest 12 weeks of the survey.
SuperValu leapt into the first place with a market share of 22.4% of the €3.2bn spent in the 12 weeks, ahead of Tesco and Dunnes, with 21.8% and 21% shares.
After SuperValu, Lidl and Aldi posted the largest sales spurts to end up with 12% and 11.7% shares of the spend.
In the Republic, five big supermarkets -- SuperValu, Dunnes, Tesco, Lidl, and Aldi -- dominate the grocery market with a combined market share of 89% and the same pattern has held during the pandemic, according to the Kantar survey.
Other outlets selling groceries -- which Kantar includes as M&S, Boots, Spar, Centra, greengrocers and cross-border shops -- secured just over 11% of the €3.2bn spent in the latest 12 weeks of the survey.
The Kantar survey on the annual inflation rate of 2.3% will put the focus on prices charged and not just on the huge spend.
Because so many grocery items sold in Irish supermarkets are directly shipped across the Irish Sea from Britain, the inflation rate for Irish grocery items in the recent Brexit turbulence has been strongly influenced by the weakness and strength of sterling against the euro.
Kantar said that a year ago Irish supermarket prices rose by 2.9% but gave few clues about the prices of which items were rising fastest during the pandemic. Official inflation figures last month from the CSO showed that prices of a large range of fresh food, including bread, cheese, fruit, and vegetables fell in April from April 2019, while prices of frozen fish, butter and oil increased.
“As lockdown continues, households with more mouths to feed at home have made their way through supplies and are now starting to top up depleted store cupboards,” said Kantar retail analyst Emer Healy.