Waitrose’s Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal-inspired recipe campaign has sparked an early Easter price war among the grocers as the supermarket chains attempt to capitalise on family meal sales over the long weekend.

Waitrose confirmed that it sold as much rhubarb in one weekend as it would expect to sell in three months following ads for Delia’s recipe for a rhubarb brulee, while Heston’s tips for perfect pork also sparked higher sales and prompted other grocers into action.

Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Aldi were among the grocery groups offering heavily discounted deals on meats for roasting for a family-oriented holiday.

Verdict consulting director Neil Saunders noted a high level of activity by the grocers - not just on Easter eggs - but on treats that focus on bringing the family together, such as roast dinners, and said the holiday period was particularly pertinent this year.

“Easter is always a vital trading period and this Easter is particularly important as it is something of a last hurrah before the general election, with a sense that regardless of who wins, the trading environment will become much more challenging.”

Other sectors are also benefiting from the family focus. Arts and crafts retailer HobbyCraft has reported like-for-like sales on Easter products in the two weeks to March 26 up 31% and pre-Easter sales of items such as ribbon up 71%, packs of Easter chicks up 116% and Easter baking cups up 191%.

HobbyCraft buying director Dominic Hooley said the retailer was benefiting from a general trend back towards consumers making gifts and said Easter is the second most important time of year for HobbyCraft. In the two weeks preceding the Easter break, Easter products account for 10% of all sales.

Reflecting the growth in personalised gifts, chocolate specialist Thorntons is also focusing on customised eggs and a ready-made treasure hunt kit.

However, fashion retailers could be hit by the predicted return of a cold snap and even snow for the long weekend. Saunders added: “Fashion retailers in particular tend to prefer a late Easter and warm weather as it normally prompts consumers to start updating their wardrobe for the spring and summer. Cold weather won’t help them.”