Despite Kantar's expectations of lower sales in 2021, Christmas grocery sales in Ireland were up 0.3% on 2020, which is an increase of €5.4m spent by Irish shoppers, its research has found.

Some €732 was spent every second on groceries in Ireland during the four weeks leading up to 26 December 2021, with total sales surpassing €1.7bn.

In comparison to a pandemic-free Christmas in 2019, total value sales were up 12% this year.

According to Kantar, this year’s slight growth was down to better than anticipated sales for Christmas week.

Busy Christmas week

During the previous seven weeks, sales were averaging around -3% versus 2020. However, Christmas week finished +5.7%, essentially saving Christmas from a decline this year.

In the overall sense, Irish shoppers spent €28m more during Christmas week this year versus 2020.

This growth was down to a longer lead-up to Christmas Day as it fell on a Saturday this year, coupled with curtailed out-of-home celebrations, as omicron infections began to rapidly spread across the nation.

The standout category performer in terms of value growth this Christmas was confectionery (including soft drinks, crisps and snacks, chocolate and sweets) representing 47% of incremental sales.

Lead performer

Irish shoppers spent €12m more on this category versus a year ago, with soft drinks being the lead performer, with sales +11% compared with Christmas 2020.

Health and beauty also performed well, fuelled by an increase in medicinal sales as omicron infections began to spread - diagnostic tests added €1.5m to category sales this Christmas.

Despite omicron fears, many returned to the pubs to toast an alcoholic beverage and, as a result, take-home alcohol sales saw a value decline of 5% compared with Christmas 2020.

This decline was mainly driven by lager sales, where Irish shoppers spent €6m less this Christmas versus year ago.

Champagne and sparkling wine sales were down by 3.8% this Christmas compared with last.

No- and low-alcoholic drinks was the only segment to grow within alcohol - they were up 26% compared with Christmas 2020.

'Extraordinary growth'

Commercial leader at NielsenIQ Ireland Karen Mooney said: “Despite all indications leading up to Christmas this year, the Irish fast moving consumer goods market managed to hold on to the extraordinary growth seen in 2020.

"As omicron began to spread widely in the week running up to Christmas 2021, Irish shoppers redirected spend into the home which meant we avoided a sales decline this year."

She added that a return to pre-pandemic Christmas trends was seen as consumers chose to spend less on alcoholic drinks and more on soft drinks and no- or low-alcoholic beverages.