Marks & Spencer has enjoyed strong sales at its food business as shoppers flocked to buy premium groceries.

M&S food sales rose 7% in the 12 weeks to September 14 while upmarket rival Waitrose’s increased 9%, according to Nielsen.

Marks & Spencer now holds a 3.5% share of the grocery market while Waitrose’s share is 4.2%.

Discounters Aldi and Lidl also delivered rapid uplifts. Aldi’s sales rose 21.1% and Lidl’s 7.4% to hold market shares of 2.6% and 2% respectively.

Nielsen said almost 40% of households shopping for groceries in the last four weeks visited at least one of Aldi or Lidl.

Among the big four, Sainsbury’s enjoyed the strongest growth as sales rose 5.2%. Tesco’s sales increased 2.6%, Asda’s 2.5% and Morrisons rose 0.8%.

Nielsen’s UK head of retailer and business insight Mike Watkins: “Many British shoppers are now using these retailers as part of their regular shopping trips, and this is impacting the FMCG market share of some of the major supermarkets.

“This trend may well continue as almost two-thirds of British consumers have changed spending habits to save money, and many shoppers anticipate a need to do so even when the economy finally improves.”

Nielsen reported TV and press advertising spend by the 10 leading UK grocers in the four weeks to  September 14 was down 2.6% over the same period a year ago to £21m.

Watkins said: “Many supermarkets continued to reinforce their price message, such as highlighting ‘back to school’ offers and fuel savings. Although TV and press spend was down, overall, Tesco doubled spend to over £5m to support their new Love Every Mouthful campaign.”