The top 10 fastest-growing U.S. industries (Hint: Think hot sauce)


The future will be hot and tangy. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
1. Generic pharmaceuticals
2. Solar panel manufacturing
3. For-profit universities
4. Pilates and yoga studios
5. Self-tanning product manufacturing
6. 3-D printer manufacturing
7. Social network game development
8. Hot sauce production
9. Green and sustainable building construction
10. Online eyeglasses sales

Now, note that not all of these industries are strictly comparable. Generic pharmaceuticals manufacturing is an enormous, $52 billion-a-year industry — which has been growing for 10 years straight as health care costs swell. Meanwhile, online eyeglasses sales is a much tinier sector, with just $348 million in revenue in 2012. Still, the rapid growth of all these industries tell us a few interesting things about the economy.

Some of the green industries on the list — including solar manufacturing and “green building” construction — benefited from various subsidies in Congress’s recent energy and stimulus bills. As those subsidies wind down, both of these sectors will slow. Still, IBIS World is projecting solar and green buildings keep growing in the coming years, with the $4.6 billion solar manufacturing industry estimated to grow at 8 percent a year in the next five years, even as subsidies shrivel and low-cost solar panels from China enter the market.

It’s probably not a surprise that yoga studios are booming, but what about self-tanning? According to the report, consumer awareness about the dangers of tanning beds and UV rays are turning people on to various self-tanning creams, mousses, and sprays. The industry has grown at a blistering (but not burning!) rate of 22.7 percent per year since 2002.

Hot sauces, too, are another oddity. IBIS World notes that hot sauce sales have exploded thanks to demographic changes, immigration, and the growing popularity of spicier ethnic food in the United States, Canada, and Japan. The industry has grown at a rate of 9.3 percent per year over the past decade.

Then there are for-profit universities, which have boomed as public and private universities become more exclusive (and more expensive). Experts are still debating the merits of these for-profit schools. A recent NBER paper, for instance, found that students at for-profit universities tend to face higher tuition prices, leave school with higher debt, and have lower earnings than comparable peers at other institutions. Still, these schools have grown at a 13.6 percent pace over the past decade, and the IBIS report doesn’t expect that to slow anytime soon.

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