Grocery shoppers made the most of Christmas festivities

UK shoppers splurged on Christmas treats this year, with a rise in spending on goods including mince pies, chocolates and sparkling wine.

The latest figures from data company Kantar show that grocery sales reached £11.7bn in December, down just 0.2% on record sales in 2020 when several areas faced restrictions.

Although there weren’t formal rules in place across the UK this year, the data suggests that many people opted to stock up and celebrate at home again, rather than in a pub or restaurant, due to the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

“People seized the chance to enjoy Christmas with friends and family after last year’s muted festivities,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

While spending on many traditional Christmas dinner items was broadly similar compared with last year, there was ample evidence of people treating themselves and guests, Kantar said. Sales of mince pies reached £62m in December, a jump of 7% on 2020, while sales of Christmas chocolates were up 21% to £61m.

Sprout sales declined by 3%, but the traditional vegetable hasn’t fallen out of favour just yet as almost half of all households in Britain served them up in December.

There were signs of new dietary trends in the data, with plant-based foods proving especially popular even before the start of Veganuary. Chilled vegetarian ranges increased sales by 6% while their frozen equivalents were up 4%.

Shoppers also spent a record amount on premium own-brand products, with £627m spent on supermarkets’ own upmarket lines in December, an increase of 6.8% from 2020. Luxury own-brand sparkling and still wine sales grew 22% and 18% respectively, while crisps surged by 31%.

Alongside Christmas indulgence, higher prices pushed up shopping budgets. Grocery price inflation reached 3.5% in December, adding nearly £15 to shoppers’ average monthly grocery bill.

The busiest shopping day was 23 December, with largest number of in-store visits since March 2020.