What does this mean for non-food specialist retailers?
Sales by food retailers in 19 European countries grew 16 per cent between 1999 and last year, according to Mintel Research. The analysis found that the sector accounts for 46 per cent of European retail sales, with non-food sales the main driver of growth at food retailers.

Mintel director of retail research Richard Perks said that UK food spending grew by slightly more than 3 per cent last year, but grocers' sales rose 4 per cent. It also suggests that non-food sales by the leading grocers increased by at least 10 per cent over the year.

Perks said: 'Leading the way is the UK, where Tesco and Asda have developed strong, well-focused ranges which are attracting shoppers in their own right. The French hypermarkets have been destination stores for non-food products for many years, but they have still to develop truly non-food brands.'

The countries included in the survey were the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.