Changing consumer tastes

Produce marketConsumer tastes affect many of the products manufacturers produce. Companies are constantly working on more effective medicines, such as painkillers that work faster; household products that make chores easier, such as laundry powders that combine detergent with additives; and personal products that give better results, such as closer shaves or more vivid hair color.

One of the strongest trends in consumer tastes today is the desire for products that are organic or provide special health benefits. The second group is often called “functional foods”. These are products that contain antioxidants, lycopene, omega 3 fatty acids, and other substances. Food companies are actively funding much of the research being done on many functional foods, hoping to create products they can advertise as helping to protect people against cancer, heart disease, and other health problems.

The demand for natural personal care products is growing even more rapidly than the demand for organic foods. This includes not only soaps, creams, and lotions used at home, but also salon treatments, such as manicures. Although long acrylic nails still account for the largest share of a nail salon’s profits (between 40 and 70 percent), people in the business are preparing for big changes. More women are already asking for shorter, natural nails. Salons are responding by offering manicures that include spa treatments such as salt scrubs and massages with products that contain essential oils and fruit extracts.


  • “IRI Announces Annual New Product Pacesetters.” Business Wire, March 1, 2006.
  • Goad, Meredith. “Look! Up on the shelves! It’s fiber-rich! Filled with flavonoids! Loaded with lycopene! It’s … SUPER FOOD!” Portland Press Herald (Maine), February 26, 2006.
  • Miller, Kerry. “Greener Shades for Nail Salons.” BusinessWeek (Small Biz), March 5, 2007.

Organically grown produce

Supporters of farmers’ markets have dietary, environmental, and economic reasons to encourage consumers to shop at these locales. They point out that food loses nutritional value between the time it is picked and the time it is eaten. Supermarket produce travels long distances from commercial farms, so it has to be picked many days ahead. The locally grown produce sold at farmer’s markets is generally allowed to ripen first and picked within 24 hours of being offered for sale. Furthermore, farmers’ markets supply a greater choice of produce than supermarkets since small farmers can grow varieties that may not travel well but that customers enjoy.

Supporters of farmers’ markets further argue that buying local products is more environmentally responsible than buying organic products because the pollution created by shipping the latter outweighs the benefit of producing them without pesticides or other chemicals. Finally, supporters make two economic arguments. They note that money spent locally stays in the community since farmers buy other products from local stores, whereas money that goes to a chain leaves the area. Supporters also add that buying locally gives farmers an economic reason to continue farming rather than selling their land to developers, thus preserving open space in the community.


  • Life begins @ 30. “10 Reasons to Eat Local Food.” (accessed May 12, 2008).
  • Rosenthal, Elisabeth. “Environmental Cost of Shipping Groceries Around the World.” New York Times, April 26, 2008.

Sole proprietorships

There are more than 25 million businesses in the United States. Well over 17 million of them–over 70 percent–are sole proprietorships. In spite of the fact that sole proprietorships generate only about 5 percent of all business revenue, many Americans clearly like to be their own boss. As one might expect, many professionals, such as doctors, dentists, architects, accountants, and lawyers are self employed. Many people in services and the arts run their businesses from a home office. These include insurance agents, actors, people who have a messenger or limousine service, and salespeople who bring clothes, cosmetics, and house wares to parties in customers’ homes.

Many businesses that require special skills are also sole proprietorships. Among them are medical testing laboratories, nursery schools, auto repair shops, restaurants, and building construction services. Individually owned specialty shops abound, such as book and sporting goods stores and car dealerships. But sole proprietorships are found in more unexpected industries too, such as the manufacture of metal and plastic products and mining and oil and gas extraction. Business owners often find it difficult to give up the ease and freedom of sole proprietorships and wait years to change the organization of growing companies.


One Comment

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