© Steve Young -
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.

Small niches

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.

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