Grocery market growth has stalled and the sector is poised to slide into decline, according to information company AC Nielsen.

Although multiple grocers’ sales growth was up 6.6 per cent year on year in the four weeks to June 7, volume growth as low as 0.5 per cent was tracked, “suggesting a big step change in consumer shopping habits”, said Nielsen.

Nielsen retailer services senior manager Mike Watkins said: “Food inflation is running at 6 per cent so, in real terms, the industry has ground to a halt.”

He said that categories in which inflation was greatest, such as dairy and bakery, were among those displaying the biggest volume slowdowns.

Shoppers are increasingly preferring standard own-label lines to premium own-label and budget private-label sales have been growing at 12 per cent.

Visits to value retailers’ web sites, such as Aldi, Lidl and Netto, have soared by between 30 and 40 per cent year on year.

Watkins said: “We are seeing more consumers shopping online for their groceries and more people using online sites to search for offers and compare prices before shopping.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that shoppers are buying groceries online because it helps in managing their shopping budget by reducing wasteful purchasing and removing the temptation of excessive impulse buying that can occur in the store environment.”