Frozen food chain Iceland stormed ahead of market averages in the 12 weeks to December 27 with sales growth in excess of 14 per cent.

According to Nielsen, Iceland’s growth in sales stood at 14.2 per cent. Morrisons was in second place at 9.1 per cent, way ahead of rivals Asda with 6.7 per cent, and Tesco and Sainsbury’s, both on 3.8 per cent.

Nielsen senior manager of retailer services Mike Watkins said: “A late surge to food retailers helped sales, but not enough to offset the weak demand at the start of December. This performance is reasonable and it can be said that the grocery sector has certainly held up better than the high street but in the main, growth has been driven by food inflation. Volume growths at the multiples were up a little at 0.7 per cent year on year, so did show improvements over those we saw in the late summer.”

Nielsen said out-of-town stores were the star performers, up 8 per cent in the two weeks to December 27. Asda performed particularly strongly in this sector.

Food sales at Marks & Spencer declined 0.5 per cent and at Waitrose were flat.

Watkins added: “Morrisons have consistently outperformed the market for the last 12 months and have out-traded some very strong and established competitors. Retailers with keen pricing and a value for money offering have really performed well over Christmas. It is evident that consumers really did cut back on the luxuries and make do this year.”