Tesco has registered a jump in sales during the crucial golden quarter, driven by its fresh food proposition.

The supermarket giant said like-for-likes at its core UK and Irish business increased 2.3% during the 19 weeks to January 6.

Group like-for-likes advanced 0.6% during the period.

In the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day, Tesco said like-for-likes in the UK increased 1.9%, and fresh food was up 3.7% on the same basis.

Tesco said the shorter festive period represented a “record Christmas” for the business, despite a negative impact from weaker tobacco sales following the collapse of former supplier Palmer & Harvey.

The grocer said that incorporating Palmer & Harvey volumes put additional strain on its distribution network, particularly post-Christmas.

Although it insisted those challenges had been resolved, the problems dragged down like-for-like sales performance by about 0.5%.

Strong across the business

Tesco hailed its “strongest quarterly performance in recent years” within its largest Extra stores, where like-for-likes advanced 1.8%.

Its convenience Express formats registered 2.3% like-for-like growth during the period, while online sales were up more than 5% across the quarter.

During the six-week pre-Christmas peak, Tesco said it fulfilled more than 4 million online orders, including 770,000 home deliveries in the seven days before December 25.

Tesco said sales of its premium Finest ranges also grew more than 4% as customers traded up during the holiday season, while its new own-label homewares propositions Go Cook and Fox & Ivy drove a 6% uplift in revenues from cookery and homewares.

Clothing sales advanced 5% as its F&F label gained traction among shoppers.

‘Firmly on track’

Tesco boss Dave Lewis said: “We have continued to outperform the market throughout this period, particularly in fresh food, thanks to our most competitive offer for many years.

“Our trading momentum accelerated across the third quarter and into December, with the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day delivering record sales and volumes in the UK.

“We are confident in the outlook for the full year and are firmly on track to deliver our medium-term ambitions.”