The independent sector is growing faster than the overall grocery market, the latest data shows.

Total independent sales grew by 8% in the 12 weeks to 17 June, compared with the same period last year [TNS Worldpanel]. The total grocery market was up 6% over the same period.

Symbol stores were the key driving factor, registering sales growth of 24%, while other independents were up just 2%.

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said the figures told a positive story, but warned: "This should not distract us from tackling the difficult issues that still face the independent sector, such as supermarket buyer power."

The data also shows that Tesco's growth lagged behind that of rivals Asda and Sainsbury's.

Tesco grew its sales by 6%, while Asda and Sainsbury's both recorded a 7% rise in sales. Morrisons' growth was 5%.

However, Tesco still managed to grow its market share from 31.4% to 31.6%.

"Tesco continues to dominate all other retailers," said TNS director of research Ed Garner. "But the emerging trend is that there is evidence of healthy competition operating in the grocery sector."

Meanwhile, the latest till roll data from Nielsen reveals growth in the multiple grocery sector slowed to just 4.6% in the four weeks to 16 June.

This coincided with consumers becoming less confident about spending in general, said Mike Watkins, Nielsen senior manager, retailer services.