Healthy eating and ‘big night in’ products helped drive grocery growth in 2017, according to new data from Nielsen Scantrack

The categories were among the fastest growing of the year, with fresh fruit, free-from, spirits and sparkling wine all performing strongly.

UK shoppers spent £176.4m more on fresh fruit (up 3.8%) than in 2016, while sales of spirits rose £152.3m (3.8%). Sales of free-from products, including gluten and dairy alternatives, rose by 18.7%, or £146.6m.

Consumers also splashed out an extra £80.3m on sparkling wine. The bottled water and ale & stout categories became bigger markets than instant coffee in 2017 – featuring in Nielsen’s top 10 of fastest growing products of the year. 

Nielsen’s head of grocery analytics, Ian Mansley, said: “Supermarkets have done a good job at protecting shoppers from the brunt of rising costs, however, it’s still been an anxious year for households about their grocery bills.

“Despite rising prices, shoppers still want to treat themselves with good quality and healthier food but also indulging and enjoying oneself by drinking and dining more at home, particularly if households look to cut costs by not going out as much.”

Mansley believes the increasing popularity of ‘big night in’ has helped sales of chilled ready meals - the fifth fastest-growing sector of 2017 - and the introduction of more premium labels.

The fastest-growing product of the year was Budweiser - shoppers spent an extra £49.2m on the brand this year. Energy drink Monster (up £31.3m) and avocados (up £29.8m) also enjoyed strong growth. 

Looking ahead to 2018, Mansley believes shoppers will “continue to economise but not compromise, as they still want good quality food and drink but expect good value for money. Product manufacturers that deliver against these expectations will be the ones flying high”.