In the 16 weeks to June 26, sales were up 1.6% compared with the same period a year ago – which was at the height of the first wave and shelves were stripped bare with panic-buying.
City analysts had expected to see a fall of around 4.1%.
Sales at Argos took a hit, however – down 3.7% – as the stocking-up on home office equipment a year earlier created tough comparisons.
Online sales remained strong, with 18% of all food now sold through Sainsbury’s website compared with 8% pre-pandemic.
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Chief executive Simon Roberts said: “Over the coming months we expect to see customer shopping patterns normalise further and we are well set up to serve them however they want to shop.
“We are focused on offering our customers even better value and regularly creating new and exciting products for them to try.”
He pointed out that from Tuesday the supermarket is launching its latest salvo in a price war with discounters Aldi and Lidl, reducing prices by £50 million on everyday products.
Online sales remain particularly strong, and Mr Roberts said grocery delivery increased 29% compared with a year ago – up 142% on two years earlier, before the pandemic.
The company was also boosted by the rollout of a 60-minute on-demand service, Chop Chop, which is now available in 49 stores, alongside 230 stores offering services on Uber Eats and Deliveroo – up 42 stores compared with March.
Sainsbury’s also saw growth in sales of its Tu clothing range as more shoppers looked to buy outfits to take advantage of easing Covid-19 restrictions.
Clothes sales rose 57.6% compared with a year earlier.