Italian food retailer Esselunga has said it saw operating profit fall in 2013 as it moved to keep a lid on prices in the face of the country's weak grocery market.

Esselunga, which runs over 140 stores in Italy, said it estimated its operating profit at "over" EUR300m (US$406m), less than it generated in 2012. It did not publish a figure for net profit.

The company said the fall in profits was "partly" due to its "pricing policy". Esselunga said suppliers had pushed up prices by 1.8% but it held its own prices at the same level as 2012.

"Over the past two years in the face of price increases received for approximately 4% Esselunga has not transferred any price increase to their customers," the retailer said.

Sales were EUR6.9bn, up 1.7% on 2012. Esselunga said the result compared to a market that saw "a significant contraction in the consumption of food".