It can pay off for investors to anticipate developing trends in society. For example, with the price of fuel skyrocketing in recent years, it doesn't take a genius to anticipate that the cost of flying is likely to jump. Think this through some more and you'll come up with further ramifications.

For example, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is now pushing for smaller packaging for many products. Why? Because when a product's box has remained unchanged in size, but its contents have shrunk (think of coffee cans and cereal boxes), Wal-Mart ends up losing money transporting air -- and as fuel prices rise, that adds up to real money. The company has been pushing for smaller packaging, and it's working. Look for flat-topped milk jugs soon, and smaller packages from a host of suppliers, such as Country Crock maker Unilever (NYSE:UL).

At the airport, we all know that heightened security measures are causing us to spend more time waiting. And increasingly, delayed flights are doing the same. This is leading to a new niche for many retailers: airport locations. According to the FAA, bars, restaurants and stores in airports have seen their revenue rise from $6.1 billion in 2005 to $6.5 billion in 2007. At Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport, sales at food vendors and shops have risen 5% and 7%, respectively, in the first five months of 2008 vs. 2007 levels, while passenger traffic has actually fallen 4.5%.

No longer are airports dominated by fast food from Wendy's (NYSE:WEN) or Burger King (NYSE:BKC). Alongside the ubiquitous Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) stands, you're just as likely to see full-blown bookstores like Borders (NYSE:BGP), as well as stores selling See's Candies, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-B).

Paying attention to developments like these can help you zero in on companies that are capturing additional value -- companies that may make for attractive investments.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Wal-Mart, and Starbucks, and enjoys Wendy's chili. Unilever is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and Borders are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Starbucks is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool owns shares of Starbucks. Try our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.