Until recently, I was a three-squares-a-day kind of guy. To explain this idiom to some of my younger readers, that meant I would simply eat breakfast, lunch and dinner — no snacks in between. Of course, as you can imagine, if either of those meals got delayed, I became rather cranky. Just ask Crystal, my managing editor.

Lately, however, I find myself cheating — yes, snacking occasionally in the morning, sometimes even in the afternoon. And don’t even ask me when I get home — it’s appetizer madness.

So I asked myself, what’s going on here? Well, I am a bit older, true. Perhaps I’m more susceptible to hunger pangs. On the other end, perhaps it’s the stress of getting scores of emails daily, many from people just passing on their “monkeys” onto to my back.

Or, quite possibly, I’m just trendy like the rest of America. Noooo waaaay, I hear my younger colleagues shouting.

But listen, a new Mintel study confirms that snacking today is nearly ubiquitous. More than three in five (64 percent) consumers agree that snacking is necessary to get through the day, including 77 percent of Millennials, who are the most likely generation to visit specialty snack shops (85 percent vs 68 percent of consumers overall), say the folks at Mintel.

Given this phenomenon, it’s not surprising that new research from Mintel reveals that three in four (73 percent) consumers are willing to pay extra for snacks made with high quality ingredients. And half say that healthier snacks would motivate them to buy more from specialty snack shops.

“Snacking is now a staple of the American diet, and as consumers snack more often, they are looking for healthier ways to indulge with high quality ingredients,” says Diana Kelter, foodservice analyst at Mintel. “By including healthier snacks on menus, shops can expand their appeal beyond Millennials, America’s primary snacking generation. Snack shops are in a great position to promote themselves both as a destination for the occasional treat and a quick stop for eating on-the-go. To further compete with the dominant retail snack market, specialty shops should have pre-packaged options available for consumers, as well as partner with recognized brands to offer branded snack fusions.”

Sounds to me like a great opportunity for the confectionery industry, doesn’t it? And believe me, I see that many of you have already jumped on the bandwagon.

As the Mintel study points out, two in five (41 percent) consumers agree that packaged snacks from grocery stores are better than items from snack shops, including 63 percent of Millennials.

“Recognizable brands also play a role when choosing snacks, as seven in 10 (69 percent) consumers say snacks with branded ingredients prove to be higher quality than other snacks,” Mintel says. “Moreover, seven in 10 (71 percent) Millennials say snacks are best eaten while on the go.”

While the Mintel study is focused on specialty snack shops, I believe their findings provide some valuable insight to candy makers, large and small. Make your products better by using better ingredients. Then charge appropriately and let the world know you’ve done so. Chances are even an old “three-squares-a-day” guy like me will buy them.