The value of property owned by big supermarkets has fallen by almost a fifth over the past two years as grocers shed surplus sites, a study has found.

Supermarket property portfolios have fallen in value by 17% to £37.8bn in just two years, according to lending platform Saving Stream, as changing consumer habits have left grocers with sites they no longer need.

Many of the sites they sell off are out-of-town units suitable for new housing, Mortgage Introducer reported.

In 2010, Tesco sold off 14 unwanted sites for £250m for potential residential conversion into 10,000 homes.

Spokesman Liam Brooke said: “UK supermarkets are increasingly looking at reversing a long-term strategy of land-banking.

“Opportunistic purchases of sites for potential future stores were intended to provide a strategic advantage, build market presence and lock out competitors from certain areas.

”Developers could be major beneficiaries as supermarkets start to scale back their property portfolios, with smaller sites just as likely as larger development opportunities to be offloaded.”