Sainsbury has announced a sales growth of 6.1% for its third quarter, strongly driven by petrol sales.

Sales growth for the 12 weeks to January 1 totalled 2.7% if petrol was excluded, and on a like-for-like basis sales were up by 2.4% but would have declined 1.2% without the boost from petrol sales.

“After a difficult November there was an improving trend over the Christmas and new Year period, which is encouraging given the tougher comparatives for the same period last year,” said Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury.

“The market was very competitive in the third quarter and early indications are that the fourth quarter will be challenging with renewed pricing activity,” he said.