LONDON: Britons' visits to supermarket stores rose 7% year-on-year in the four weeks to May 21 as they shopped around for the best prices amid a worsening cost of living crisis, market researcher NielsenIQ said on Tuesday.

British households are facing a squeeze on their disposable income, with inflation hitting a 40-year peak of 9% in April and projected to rise further.

To cushion the blow, the government last week announced a 15 billion pound ($19 billion) package of support for households struggling to meet soaring energy bills.

“Shoppers are becoming more considered in what they buy and the current challenge for supermarkets is to improve volume growth by getting more items into the shopping basket," Mike Watkins, NielsenIQ’s UK head of retailer and business insight, said.

"The upside for supermarkets is that shoppers may be more inclined to dine in at home as budgets get squeezed."

NielsenIQ said total grocery sales at UK supermarkets rose 0.6% year-on-year over the four-week period, driven by a 2.3% increase in the final week.

It said the promotional spend fell from 21.5% of value sales last month to 20.4%, suggesting there is little appetite from retailers to use volume-based promotions to drive sales when shoppers are looking to spend less on each shopping trip.

The market researcher said the forthcoming Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend should give a welcome, if short-term, boost to grocery sales.

It said 20% of households expected to buy extra groceries for the weekend.

NielsenIQ said over the 12 weeks to May 21, total sales fell 1.7% year-on-year, with market leader Tesco, Marks & Spencer, German-owned discounters Aldi and Lidl and the Co-operative all gaining market share. (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Bernadette Baum)