According to the latest UK supermarket share figures published by TNS Worldpanel, the battle to be the UK's second largest supermarket operator after Tesco has intensified, with Wal-Mart's UK unit Asda widening the gap between second and third place.

"Earlier in the year there had been speculation that Sainsbury's would soon overtake Asda to regain second place but Asda has managed to widen its lead to 0.9 share points (Asda 16.6% vs. Sainsbury's 15.7%)." Edward Garner, director of research at TNS Worldpanel said. "A similar situation was last seen a year ago and this is consistent with the different seasonal nature of the two businesses."

The TNS research revealed that Tesco has continued to show strong growth in the 12 weeks to 8 October, but its share has remained at a fairly steady 31.4% of the market for the last five periods - a trend that TNS said was indicative of the renewed strength of Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons. "Certainly, one of the conclusions of the ongoing Competition Commission investigation must be that the market remains competitive," Garner suggested.

During the period, turnover increased at Morrisons but the retailer's growth still lagged behind the overall market. 

Waitrose saw double-digit growth to hold on to its record 3.9% share, successfully integrating store acquisitions, TNS found. Meanwhile, another small player, Kwik Save, continues to struggle following its acquisition by investment consortium Back to the Future (BTTF) earlier this year. This downturn, TNS suggested, was hastened by the strong performance of European discounter Aldi.