Fresh fruit and ‘free-from’ were the fastest-growing products at supermarkets during 2016, according to measurement firm Nielsen.

The company’s analysis of epos data shows shoppers in the UK spent an extra £175.6m on fresh fruit this year compared to last year, while sales of ‘free-from’ products rose by £122.9m (18.9%). Sparkling wine is the only other category to see sales rise more than £100m in 2016 (up by £101.9m or 15.5%).

Free-from’s growth means it’s worth £772.2m a year and is now a bigger category than instant coffee or sparkling wine. Dairy-free brand Alpro is the most popular free-from brand with annual sales at £151.9 million, followed by Lactofree (£49.2m), aimed at lactose intolerance, and grain-free snack brand Nakd (£36.3m).

Mike Watkins, Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight, said: “The nation is increasingly concerned about diet and health – over four in 10 Britons now actively avoid certain ingredients in what they eat and drink – which is reflected in fresh fruit and free-from being the fastest-growing categories. To some, free-from may still have the air of an “alternative” or niche category but it’s now nearly 40% bigger than a signature staple of British consumption – tea.

“It’s gone from being the preserve of medical condition purchasing, on its own small shelf space, to a lifestyle or general health choice punctuating the likes of ice cream, biscuits, butter, baby food and cough medicine. As one of the fastest growing categories, retailers are now giving free-from more space on shelves and it’ll eventually feature in nearly every category and aisle.”

Bottled water is the fourth-fastest growing category, a rise of £81.9m  taking it past the £1bn mark, while Britons spent nearly £50m more on avocados this year, making it the single fastest-growing food or drink item. E-cigarette sales also grew significantly during the year, up 20% to £29.1m.