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Hotspots brings you the Mintel Trends team’s top observations on product and service launches from around the world. From restaurants turned into co-working spaces to an author co-writing a story with her readers’ input, find out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

Libro Vivo – Argentina

Publishing company Planeta and Google are teaming up for a project that will see author Viviana Rivero use Google Docs to write live a spinoff of her upcoming novel. During five days, people will be able to access the Google doc and write comments about how they would like the story to continue. The project aims to reveal how the creative process of a writer works, while showing how digital and print can live together and complement each other.

Livestreaming has given consumers the chance to interact and have a say in the making of a product. Iconic Australian milk brand OAK is allowing consumers to choose its next flavour through a real-time vote on Facebook Live, while Coca-Cola Argentina has challenged an influential cook to create a dish in real time using ingredients suggested by livestream followers. In an increasingly visual world driven by fierce curiosity and fear of missing out, livestreaming seems to have a bright future as it allows people to join in without paying up.

Graciana Méndez – Trends Analyst, Latin America

Jail Review – Italy

An Italian business owner has been given a nine-month jail sentence for posting fake reviews for cash on TripAdvisor. Alongside jail time, he must pay thousands of pounds in costs and damages to Italian hospitality businesses. This is one of the first times a crime of this nature has resulted in a jail sentence.

TripAdvisor has received widespread criticism from UK pub operators for not doing more to stop users posting fake reviews. This is a step to show it is taking this issue more seriously. Information about a brand posted online is extremely important and can have huge effects on people’s behaviour and opinions. The jail sentence awarded in the TripAdvisor case should make people think twice about sharing fake information, but there is room for more tools to identify false content to protect brands and consumers.

Helen Fricker – Trends Manager, EMEA

Work Where You Eat – US

Start-up Spacious turns dinner-only restaurants into co-working spaces that can be used by members until the restaurant has to prepare for dinner. Each location has a Spacious employee that ensures workers obey the rules and have access to what they need. Equipped with pumped-up Wi-Fi, power strips and a coffee bar, Spacious locations cater to individuals rather than companies. With 15 locations in New York City, Spacious has now expanded to San Francisco, and is aiming to occupy the in-between space of a coffee shop and WeWork.

With more flexible careers, people are exploring the options for what their ‘office’ may look like. If they’re going to spend money on coffee to work in a coffee shop, why not put that money toward a monthly membership in a co-working space with free coffee? Meanwhile, restaurant owners get additional revenue and an opportunity to maximise their unused space.

Credit: Spacious.com

Alex Milinazzo, Trends Analyst, North America

Smile for Rewards – China

Coca-Cola China has launched VenCycling machines – vending machines that use facial recognition technology to identify and reward consumers who recycle. In exchange for returning used cans or plastic bottles into the machine, consumers receive credits on their mobile for beverages or products made from recycled plastics.

China had been importing plastic waste for the last 28 years, before announcing in November 2017 that it would stop taking in contaminated plastics. This is a strong indication of the government’s commitment to reduce plastic pollution. For instance, Shanghai is piloting IoT-connected recycling containers that use facial recognition technology to reward users for separating their rubbish. While this is a good start, it’s essential that both governments and businesses continue to develop the technology, create awareness and eventually evoke an intrinsic desire in consumers to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Credit: Coca-Cola

Joyce Lam – Trends Analyst, Asia Pacific

Gin Safari – UK

Tally Ho has launched a Cycling Gin Safari tour to explore London’s best gin spots on vintage bicycles. The tour starts in Lambeth in a boutique gin distillery where cyclists can learn about gin craft and artistry, and continues along industrial wharves, quiet streets and cycle lanes. Customers also get to visit food markets and try their hand at graffiti.

The success of the gin safari relies on the combination of drinking gin with cycling and learning about history and architecture. It elevates the value of a glass of gin by building an experience around it. Another attractive aspect is the revival of a past culture. There is a growing feeling of nostalgia from older generations, and a desire for vintage items from younger generations. Indeed, we have seen other categories bringing back icons, like the Sega console from the 90s, printed photo services and vinyl record players.

Julie Gable – Trends Analyst, EMEA

Plastic Road

Plastic-mixed asphalt roads are being tested in Indonesia to reduce plastic waste. 1km of road uses 2.5-5 tonnes of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) recovered from plastic bags. PT Chandra Asri Petrochemical Tbk has worked on the project in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Work and Public Housing (PUPR).

Indonesia is the second biggest contributor to plastic waste in the world, contributing around 200,000 tonnes of plastic waste a year. The government is committed to reducing plastic waste by up to 70% by 2025 and is drafting regulations to manage plastic waste at sea. In the interim, Indonesia’s two biggest Muslim organisations – Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah – with a total of 100 million followers, said they will be preaching to their followers to reuse bags and reduce plastic waste, according to The Guardian.

Delon Wang – Manager of Trends, APAC