In the latter days of its time under Walmart, Asda all too often resembled a punch drunk heavyweight boxer – taking dreadful punishment on the ropes from quicker rivals, with everyone waiting for a response that seldom came.

The opposite is true under current owners the Issa brothers, with Asda in the centre of the ring – fists now confidently flailing – waiting to see which of its blows will land.

Yesterday’s second quarter results are more proof Asda is back in the fight. Its like-for-like sales are up by almost double figures, including a particularly punchy performance by its own-label range, up nearly 15% year on year.

Taking centre stage was its Grocer Gold Award-winning Just Essentials brand, with sales up 87% year on year, and now claimed by Asda to be the UK’s leading own-label budget brand.

Of course, the stellar growth figures for Just Essentials reflect the fact it launched only in May last year. As The Grocer revealed last week, there are also signs that, with its range unable to produce the margins to match volumes, it is already being rationalised.

Indeed, no sooner had the results landed than financial experts were raising questions about the difficulties Asda’s investment in price will pose for its long-term profitability.

More than five million people using Asda’s app

Yet, it won’t just be Asda’s supermarket rivals but also supplier brands who will be taking note of the swing towards own label.

And let us not forget that when The Grocer first broke news of the Issas’ plans for Just Essentials, many experts doubted it could achieve a launch of any notable scale within the Issas’ projected timeframe. They have been proved unduly pessimistic.

It’s also not only prices that have brought the Issas back in the game, but loyalty too, shown through results coming in almost a year to the day since Asda rolled its Asda Rewards scheme out nationwide.

It now boasts more than five million customers regularly using the app, who have earned in excess of £200m since launch to spend in store or online.

These figures aren’t yet likely to cause Tesco too much lost sleep, given its 20 million-plus Clubcard holders. Aldi, too, isn’t going to be overly perturbed by Asda’s position on price, especially given its own lowering of dozens of prices to further up the ante against the big four.

But the figure demonstrates Asda is no longer underperforming. The big question now is how it can keep up the momentum.

New Asda Food Hub is being rolled out

The Issas recently spoke of the “huge runway” for growth, thanks to Asda’s acquisition of EG Group’s UK & Ireland operations getting past the CMA.

And with more than 200 Asda On the Move stores due to open across the UK by the end of the year, Asda is no longer a bit-part player in the convenience arena.

Meanwhile, today came more proof of how the Issas are targeting this and the out-of-home sector to provide the fresh fuel for growth that will be needed.

The new Asda Food Hub concept, initially being rolled out at the retailer’s Leicester and Dagenham stores, but also involving refreshers at 10 other stores, could find itself rapidly scaled up. Asda and other supermarkets, however, have been trying to eat into the out-of-home lunch players’ share for a while now, with the scale of these operations not yet reaching the level required to become a game-changer.

It is time for Asda to move out of the ‘test and learn’ phase that was launched under old boss Roger Burnley, and land the hammer blows that really count.

The flurry of activity we have seen from Asda of late gives hope to those who see its long-term goal of becoming the UK’s second-biggest retailer once more as more than just optimistic fighting talk.