The latest figures published by TNS Worldpanel suggest that in the 12 weeks ending 26 March Asda successfully held onto the second biggest market share behind Tesco. This contradicts ACNielson's report, released earlier this week, which said that Sainsbury's had overtaken Asda to become the UK's second biggest retailer.

"TNS's market share figures challenge ACNielson's data, which just goes to show how competitive the UK grocery sector is," an Asda spokesperson told just-food.

According to TNS, the UK unit of Wal-Mart has a 16.3% share of the market while Sainsbury's accounts for 16.0% of sales. ACNielson figures suggest that Sainsbury's commands 15.3% of the grocery sector compared to Asda's 15.2%. Both sets of data agree that Sainsbury's market share is growing at a quicker rate than Asda's.

Asda's growth rate is 1.9%, which falls behind the average growth of 2.8% and Sainsbury's growth of 4.2%, TNS said.

"Who knows if Sainsbury's will overtake Asda in terms of market share," Asda told just-food. "We'll be offering more great food, more George cloths and more low prices to move our business forward."

Tesco's growth rate continues to be strong, but has slowed in the period to 7.2%. Morrisons, Waitrose, Iceland and M&S can also all stake a claim to improved performances over recent months.

Commenting on the results, TNS Worldpanel director Peter East added: "It should also be noted that growth rates are generally lower this month - with Easter being so late this year, the seasonal uplift seen in this period last year will not be reflected until the next release on 4th May 2006."