The long-held belief in eating three meals a day continues to erode. Now, more than a third of consumers globally say they snack regularly, with the figure rising to just over 40 percent for millennials or people aged 18-34, according to consumer insight firm Canadean.

In a recent report, the researchers found consumers snack for a variety of reasons such as the functional need for an energy or nutritional boost, the psychological need to de-stress or indulge, and needs dictated by occasion, such as watching a movie, attending a sporting event, or socializing with friends.

As more consumers turn to snacks to fulfill a wide range of needs and occasions every day, Canadean says the potential opportunities for snacking brands are enormous right across the health-indulgence and sweet-savory spectrums.

 “While it is important for brands to acknowledge and address the snacking needs of all consumers, it is particularly crucial to understand the motivations of younger consumers,” says Katrina Diamonon, principal consumer insight at Canadean. “Not only are they more frequent snackers, but their purchase behaviors and preferences will strongly influence other current consumers and also subsequent generations as they pass on these traits to their children.”

Canadean finds that a range of rational and emotional needs beside hunger can be addressed through snacking, and these reasons differ according to age. As millennials tend to prioritize meat in their diets more highly than their older counterparts due to its perceived health benefits, manufacturers should capitalize on the meat snack segment and explore new opportunities.

“Manufacturers are increasingly experimenting with a range of proteins, formats, and gourmet flavors to elevate consumption from convenience-store snacks to an exciting taste experience and even credible meal replacement,” Diamonon says. “Improved sourcing transparency and ethical production of such offerings is also enhancing premium credentials.”