LONDON: The biggest recession in decades appears to have boosted the savoury snacks market in the UK, with value-conscious consumers looking to cut their leisure costs.

Nielsen figures cited by the Financial Times show that the sector was worth £2.4bn ($3.8bn, €2.8bn) in 2010, up 5.6% from 2009.

Significantly, "sharing" products - such as large bags of crisps - enjoyed still higher growth of 12.5%.

This in turn suggests that some consumers are passing up on expensive nights out and are instead having nights in at home.

A sluggish economy - official figures released today show that GDP dipped 0.5% in Q4 2010 - and one of the world's largest personal debt burdens have squeezed Britons' budgets over recent months.

Sharp cutbacks have been noted among entertainment firms, with consultancy Zolfo Cooper saying last week that overall UK leisure spending fell precipitously over the second half of 2010.

Spending in pubs and bars was down 42% from the second half of 2009, while nightclubs experienced a 45% drop.

Paul Hemming, leisure sector lead partner at Zolfo Cooper, said: "Most leisure sector operators anticipate significant challenges in 2011 with the clear risk that consumer demand will fall further."

Data sourced from Financial Times/Zolfo Cooper; additional content by Warc staff