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Hotspots brings you the Mintel Trends team’s top observations on product and service launches from around the world. From a robot dog designed to keep lonely youngsters company to a court ruling giving the Amazon forest human rights, find out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

Bad dog – China

A Chinese industrial design student has launched Bad Dog, a robot dog designed to keep China’s lonely young people company while providing a wide range of services to the owner. The robot is capable of monitoring life signs, receiving deliveries on behalf of its owner and mimicking the behaviour of real dogs. Its eyes act as sensors and cameras that help it navigate and interact with its surroundings, while sensors within the dog’s head detect the actions of stroking.

China has one of the largest migrant populations in the world, with millions of young rural migrant workers living alone or with friends, contributing to feelings of loneliness and boredom. Brands have been quick to step in: for example, Microsoft has introduced Xiaobing, an AI-enabled chatbot modeled on a 17-year-old girl that users can chat with on social media. Meanwhile, a Korean designer has created a sofa that gives hugs to those who need them. Brands that are able to offer joy and emotional wellbeing through their products or services are likely to forge a deeper connection with their target audience and build customer loyalty.

Credit: www.technode.com

Joyce Lam – Trends Analyst, Asia Pacific

100% Real Beauty – UK and global

Dove is introducing a ‘No Digital Distortion’ mark to its branded content as a continuation of its Real Beauty Pledge, further emphasising its commitment to non-airbrushed images. The mark gives guidelines on what retouching is permissible, such as removing blemishes, stray hairs or shadows. On the contrary, Dove pledges not to make alterations that distort the physical appearance of its models, such as misrepresenting eye, hair or skin colour, removing permanent features like moles or stretch marks or using multiple photos to create a single image.

Image retouching is facing a backlash as concerns grow over the unrealistic beauty ideals that such imagery can promote. In response, brands are increasingly promoting more diversity in their campaigns. For example, fashion brand Missguided is celebrating features that are conventionally seen as flaws, like stretch marks and cellulite. Such campaigns are likely to resonate with a wide range of consumers who feel under pressure to look a certain way, yet they are particularly important for vulnerable younger generations. In fact, according to Mintel’s research on children and teens’ lifestyles, about half of British 13-15-year-old girls say their appearance is a source of anxiety.

Sophie Corfan – Manager of Trends, EMEA

Amazon Rights – Colombia

Colombia’s highest court has granted the Amazon the same legal rights as a human being and has urged the government to fight deforestation in the rainforest. The ruling states the importance of protecting the rights of future generations, following a group of 25 young plaintiffs, ranging in age from 7-26, who filed a lawsuit against the government in January demanding it to protect their right to a healthy environment. The court ordered the government, along with the environment and agriculture ministries and environmental authorities, to come up with action plans within four months to combat deforestation in the Amazon.

As consumers become more mindful of sustainability issues, we are seeing more initiatives to tackle environmental damage. We’ve seen Conservation International outline its aims to achieve zero net deforestation in Amazonia by 2020, as part of the largest tropical reforestation project in history. And while UK supermarket Iceland announced it will stop using palm oil in own-brand products by the end of 2018, Brazil-based Carrefour pledged in 2016 that it will no longer buy meat from suppliers that cut down trees to raise cattle.

Credit: www.uncovercolombia.com

Graciana Méndez – Trends Analyst, Latin America

Money Conversations – US

Visa is focusing on engaging Millennial women to discuss their finances in a campaign called Money is Changing, focusing on the fact that many women are uncomfortable talking about the topic. Visa surveyed 2,242 Millennial and Generation X women and men about money, with topics including dating, parenthood, gender pay gap and general feelings surrounding financial independence.

The survey data reveals that 89% of Millennial women feel it’s more expensive to be a woman and 63% of Millennial men agree. Additionally, Mintel data reveals that women aged 18-34 are 12 percentage points more likely than men to feel that their earnings are worse than where they are expected to be at this stage of life. Many women-focused publications are creating an open space for women to discuss money: Refinery29, one of Visa’s publication partners for Money is Changing, features a money diary series that explores how women across different salary ranges manage expenses over the course of a week. The goal of this series is to showcase that there is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach for managing finances, but there is something that can be learned from one another.

Diana Kelter – Senior Trends Analyst, US

Zero Waste? I’ll Drink to That! – Thailand

Bangkok restaurant Haoma has launched a new cocktail menu focused on achieving zero waste. Already committed to urban farming and local sourcing, the restaurant has now extended its sustainability efforts through a cocktail menu that reuses discarded herbs from its garden using fermentation and probiotic techniques. The restaurant aims to become Bangkok’s first zero-waste restaurant by 2020.

Thai consumers are increasingly turning to ‘green’ companies as the scale of the world’s environmental challenges becomes clear. Food waste in foodservice is one of the problems Thailand’s government is particularly concerned about. This has encouraged a national campaign focused on the issue, and is creating opportunities for restaurants to appeal to sustainably-minded consumers by taking a stand on food waste. More efforts are likely to go mainstream as resources dwindle further in the coming years, and brands will have to find answers to difficult questions around how diets can be satiated without inflicting more damage on the environment.

Delon Wang – Manager of Trends, APAC