The consumer sector in 2030: Trends and questions

What can happen in 15 years? A look back at 2000 shows how much the world can change in just a decade and a half. Back then, about 30 percent of people in developing countries lived in extreme poverty, compared with less than 15 percent today.1Only 12 percent of people owned a mobile phone; now, more than 60 percent do. Facebook, which today has almost 1.5 billion users, hadn’t launched yet. These and other developments have changed how consumers live, think, and shop—and the changes are only going to accelerate. What’s going on in the world economy is “no ordinary disruption,” as our colleagues have explained at length.2

Disruptive forces can cause dramatic reversals. The retail and consumer-packaged-goods (CPG) sectors have seen such reversals in the past 15 years. In 2000, Kmart was the third-largest US retailer, with $36 billion in sales; by 2014, its annual revenues had declined by two-thirds. Over the same period, Amazon’s annual sales grew to $89 billion from about $2.8 billion. Alibaba, the market leader in China’s booming e-commerce business, was only a 15-year-old company when in 2014 it filed the largest IPO ever, valued at $25 billion. Anheuser-Busch was the world’s largest brewer in 2000; today, it no longer operates as an independent company, having been taken over by formerly smaller players.

The next 15 years, too, will bring their share of industry upheavals. We believe companies that want to be on top in 2030 must study emerging trends and begin preparing for them now. Certain trends will follow a pattern of predictable growth; others may take more surprising paths. In this article, we cite examples of both types of trends and some of their high-level implications for the consumer sector. We then recommend a set of actions that retail and CPG executives can take now to position themselves for success in the next decade and beyond.

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