It's difficult to talk about what “consumers” want because that one word covers countless individuals who all want different things: this one wants low prices more than anything else, that one wants high quality, someone else makes a point to “Buy American” whenever possible.
There's also what's called the “responsible consumption” market, for consumers who want to be “socially responsible”: these are the items touted as being “organic,” “Earth-friendly,” “fair trade” or otherwise sensitive to various issues.
According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, there are definite growth opportunities in the responsible consumption market:
Goods labeled organic, natural, ecological, and fair trade are no longer a niche in the food, personal-care, and household products sectors. These goods have entered mainstream retailers and become a large part of the market, with a broad base of consumers now purchasing them. In an otherwise stagnant industry, these “responsible consumption” (RC) products represent a major area of profitable growth.
But so far, according to the BCG study, the bulk of that growth is happening in small niche businesses, as most of the major-brand companies ignore this new business opportunity:
Most of this growth, however, is going not to A brands—the major product brands—but to specialty brands and to both specialty and conventional retailers. Most A-brand manufacturers, in fact, have weak or nonexistent offerings in this area. Continued inaction may cost A brands one-third of their current consumers over the next few years.
So if you're a socially conscious consumer who wishes the market had more offerings in line with your preferences, the future looks bright for you. But if you're a stockholder in those A-brand companies, you might want to diversify your portfolio a bit.