Iceland has returned to strong growth, helped by the biggest store expansion programme since its hostile takeover of Bejams.

The frozen food specialist showed year-on-year sales growth of 10.0% in the 12 weeks ending 20 March according to Nielsen.

In the third quarter of last year, year-on-year sales dropped to 5.7% [Nielsen 12w/e 5 September 2009]. But it has opened 71 stores over the past year, including 51 former Woolies, bringing its total store estate to 760.

Like-for-like sales had also been "well into positive territory", said CEO Malcolm Walker. "Things tailed off in the second half of 2009, but sales have picked up this year," he told The Grocer. He added that Iceland had signed up two or three more stores and hoped to open a total of 20 in the next year, and expected full-year figures to the end of March to be "fantastic".

Of the big four, Morrisons, where new chief executive Dalton Philips took up his role this week, grew sales the fastest, at 7.2% [Nielsen], while market share rose from 10.5% to 10.9%.