After months of frantic activity on the gondola ends of the nation’s supermarkets, promotions have settled down. A little.

The massive year-on-year hikes in the number of featured space promotions - driven by a combination of brand price-matching and seasonal activity - came to a halt in February. According to data from retail analyst Assosia, featured space deals were down slightly in the four weeks to 4 March, from 8,521 and 2011 to 8,445.

“It is possible the retailers have maxed out the space they are willing to give to promotions at the moment,” suggested Assosia managing director Kay Staniland. “I think things are likely to be fairly steady for the next few months.”

Of course, once the summer of celebration begins - bringing with it the Diamond Jubilee, the London Olympics and Euro 2012 - all bets will be off, and retailers might push the promotional boat out as they did at Christmas, when the total number of offers broke the 10,000 barrier in one four-week period. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw activity rise to close to the levels seen last Christmas,” said Staniland.

Wholesale prices: fruit & vegetables
The recent drought has raised fears about rising brassica prices, but the prices of most fresh produce staples are still heading in the opposite direction. Seven of the 10 fruit and veg items in our basket are cheaper now than they were a year ago, with onions down by a spectacular 60.3%, as the onion market continues to recover from last year’s sky-high prices.

At £955/tonne, bananas remain cheaper year-on-year, although prices have been moving upwards month-on-month, driven in part by fears about crop diseases leading to tighter supply in 2012.

Meanwhile, grapefruit prices are leading this month’s rises, with prices currently up 18.2% year-on-year to £1,825/tonne, and up 31.4% month-on-month. Reduced crop forecasts in Florida have a role to play here, with the USDA downgrading its expectations for this year’s Floridian grapefruit crop by 3% to 18.7 million boxes, in February.

Olympic sponsor Cadbury is likely to be at the forefront of that activity. The chocolate giant tops our list of the 10 most promoted brands this month, running 416 deals in February - nearly three times as many as second-placed Kellogg’s, and up from 267 this time last year.

Although some of Cadbury’s February deals were on its Olympic-themed lines, the vast majority were on Easter eggs, with Assosia noting a lot of offers sited at tills and in-store entrances. In fact, the confectioner appears to be muscling its rivals out of promotional space, with the number of Nestlé and Mars deals down by about 50% on a year ago.

Cadbury, along with nine of the top 10 brands, has increased the average saving offered to shoppers compared with a year ago - though the 0.4 percentage point increase is modest compared with the likes of Walkers and Birds Eye.

In many cases, the hike in average saving is a result of brands using more half-price deals, with Walkers doubling its number of such offers year-on-year, and Birds Eye running 55 deals this year compared with 19 in 2011. Overall, the proportion of deals using the half-price mechanic has increased five points year-on-year to 24.6% of all deals, while there has been a four-point drop in x-for-y deals to 26%.