What Are Consumables?

Consumables are goods used by individuals and businesses that must be replaced regularly because they wear out or are used up. They can also be defined as the components of an end product that is used up or permanently altered in the process of manufacturing such as semiconductor wafers and basic chemicals.

Consumables are sometimes segregated into consumer staples, which are used by many households regardless of how the economy is doing; and consumer discretionary, which are purchased out of want and not need.

Since staple goods are consumed at all times, they are considered non-cyclical, while more discretionary products are cyclical and can vary in demand with the economy.

Key Takeaways

  • Consumables refer to products used for day-to-day living (food and clothing, for example), and are usually considered safe investments in any economic environment.
  • Retailers often make hefty profits by selling consumables—which can range from non-cyclical staple goods to discretionary items whose demand changes with the overall economy.
  • Consumables are also classified as non-durable or soft goods, versus durable goods that are consumed once and persist.

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Understanding Consumables

Stocks of companies that make consumables are considered safe harbors for equity investors when the economy shows signs of weakness. The reasoning is simple: People always need to purchase groceries, clothes, and gas no matter what the state of the broad economy.

Many of the items measured in the basket of goods used to calculate the consumer price index (CPI) are consumables. Inflation in these items is closely watched because it can lower the discretionary income people have to spend on items such as cars, vacations, and entertainment.

The global dental consumables market is valued at an estimated USD 27.9 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach USD 38.7 billion by 2024, according to an industry report released by Marketsandmarkets.com.

A Wide Variety of Consumables

Discount Grocery Consumables

Large grocery retailers may lower prices on consumables as part of a long-term strategy to gain traffic and fend off competition. For example, in June 2016, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced it would roll back prices on consumables such as fresh produce, laundry detergent, and over-the-counter drugs. The rollbacks reduced Wal-Mart's profit margins but also drew traffic to Wal-Mart stores and boosted the retailer's market share in the face of competition from other discount grocery stores.

Dental Care Consumables

Dental consumable products include dental crowns, implants, and bridges as well as orthodontics wires and other biomaterials. Factors contributing to the growth of this market include increasing awareness of dental health in emerging economies such as Hungary, Turkey, and India. Dentsply International Inc. and Align Technology Inc. are all leading suppliers in the dental consumables market as of 2019.

Nanotechnology Consumables

Nanotechnology components are increasingly being incorporated into electronic products such as camera displays and battery systems. As a result, growth in the nanotechnology industry is driving the market for cleanroom consumables.

Cleanrooms are a necessary part of the production and testing phases of these tiny products. Cleanroom consumables used in nanotechnology include disposable clothing, gloves, and wipes to prevent contamination from dust and other unwanted elements. Leading producers in the cleanroom consumables department include Berkshire Corporation and E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, but smaller competitors are expected to compete for market share in regional markets.