Marks & Spencer's food retail business built on 2023's strong sales momentum in the early weeks of the new year, UK industry data showed on Tuesday.

Market researcher NIQ said M&S's grocery sales rose 11.6% in the 12 weeks to Jan. 27 year-on-year, second only to German-owned discounter Lidl, where sales rose 13.2%, as Britain's fastest growing grocer.

Market leader Tesco saw sales growth of 6.9%, while No. 2 Sainsbury's achieved growth of 8.4%.

Asda and Morrisons were again among the laggards with sales growth of 2.7% and 3.4% respectively, the data showed.

Over the four weeks to Jan. 27 total sales at UK supermarkets rose 6.6% year-on-year, NIQ said. Food inflation was 6.1%, its lowest rate since June 2022.

Echoing data from rival market researcher Kantar last week, NIQ said promotional activity accounted for 23% of sales, down from 26% over Christmas.

It added that online grocery maintained its share of 11.2% of total grocery spend.

Separately on Tuesday, data from the British Retail Consortium showed retailers reported sluggish overall sales in January as shoppers remained cautious about spending, underscoring how high inflation and borrowing costs are weighing on households. (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)