The Co-op Group once again outperformed the big four in the 12 weeks to 1 December, according to new Nielson data.

Over the last four weeks, the Co-op Group saw grocery sales growth of 3.4%, while the grocery industry as a whole saw headline growth of just 2.3%, as the industry heads into the vital Christmas trading period.

The data also shows Asda was the fastest growing store among the big four supermarkets (1.5%) in the 12-week period, while Morrison’s growth was flat (0%). Tesco and Sainsbury’s were slightly down (-0.1% and -0.4% respectively), while discounters Aldi and Lidl were up 12.8% and 12.1% respectively.

Nielsen’s UK head of retailer insight, Mike Watkins, said: “It’s been a slow start to Christmas in 2018, and in particular for the grocery multiples.

“The good news is that we still expect shoppers to spend on seasonal treats and indulgences as well as premium food and drink when shopping and to enjoy the festive season with family and friends. This will provide some much-needed sales momentum in particular for the big supermarkets.

“Retailers have been putting a real focus on increasing the frequency of visits that shoppers make to stores. The ‘little and often’ shopping trend is just as important at Christmas and, as shoppers tend to expand their store repertoire at this time of year, now is the time for retailers to take the opportunity in the lead up to the holidays to make sure they’ve got all the festive favourites stocked alongside attractive offers.”