Christmas has come early, if the number of featured space promotions is anything to go by. Supermarkets have found room for more than 10,000 deals over the past four weeks - numbers not seen since last December.

But while some of the space is being filled with tins of chocolates for early Christmas shoppers, the biggest hikes in deals have nothing to do with the upcoming festivities.

Unusually, the sharpest increase in promotions has been in the fresh aisles, with retail analysts Assosia recording more than twice as many fruit & veg deals in the four weeks ending 30 September this year as in the same period a year ago. Chilled food, and meat, fish & poultry have also seen major hikes, with the number of deals up 53% and 60% respectively year-on-year.

“It is unusual for fresh food to be showing the biggest increases in activity rather than ambient or shelf-stable goods,” says Assosia MD Kay Staniland.

Wholesale root vegetable prices hit by wet summer

Potatoes are not the only crop to have suffered from bad weather (see analysis, right). As Sainsbury’s group commercial director Mike Coupe noted this week, all root vegetable growers are struggling due to wet-weather-related problems, with carrots currently up by 46.2% to £380/t year-on-year.

Apple and pear prices also remain under pressures as growers expect significantly reduced volumes in the UK and on the Continent this year. Although prices have eased somewhat over the past month as new season volumes have started to come in, apple prices are up by 13.9% year-on-year, with pears up 16.7%.

Wholesale tomato prices in the UK have risen even more dramatically - at £950/t, they are now nearly 60% higher than last month and up 40.7% on this time last year.

Peppers are the only fresh produce in our tracker to have grown cheaper yoy. At £1,366/t, they are 7.9% down on last year and down 21.9% on last month.

The increase in fruit & veg deals is, to some degree, the result of clever repositioning of fresh produce displays in-store, which means they are now counted as featured space, Staniland adds.

But the key reason for the overall increase in promotions across all categories has been a shift away from a single brand being allowed to ‘block-book’ featured space.

Seven of the 10 most-promoted brands have increased the number of deals year-on-year, while all 10 are running a greater number than a month ago. Mars has more than doubled its deals year-on-year, while Coca-Cola isn’t far behind with a 90% increase. This is more than Assosia recorded for the soft drink giant in August at the height of the Olympics - and Cadbury is also running more deals than during the Games.

And although Christmas hasn’t been the key reason for this month’s increase in promotional activity, Staniland suggests it may be behind a year-on-year shift in mechanics away from half-price and towards x-for-y, as retailers and suppliers encourage shoppers to stock up early.