Retailers are increasingly turning to the use of promotional coupons to bring in consumers - but consumers have yet to fully embrace coupons as a means of lowering their food bills, according to a new study.

Less than a third (30%) of consumers said they were more actively seeking out coupon-based promotions, according to the latest annual survey of the industry by marketing consultancy Valassis.

Among those who did admit to increased interest in coupon promotions, three-quarters (75%) cited surging food prices and the general cost of living as a key factor.

"We have found when you get into a market downturn, consumers become much more responsive to promotions," said Valassis commercial director David Smith. "If you look at who is producing coupons most aggressively, it is the big retailers such as Tesco and Sainsbury's."

Retailers now issue just over 33% of coupons in the UK, while the share held by newspapers - which have traditionally dominated the coupon market - dipped to 34.5%.

Additionally, retailers were found to have distributed 21% more coupons in 2007 than in 2005.

The news comes with the total value of coupons redeemed in 2007 having also risen by about 20% to a new mark of £479m, up from the £400m redeemed over the previous 12-month period.

"The main challenge for retailers is maintaining customers' level of spend [and] we expect that upward trend to continue," Smith added.