For the latest in consumer and industry news, top trends and market perspectives, stay tuned to Mintel News featuring commentary from Mintel's team of global category analysts.

Hotspots brings you the Mintel Trends team’s top observations on product and service launches from around the world. From a AI housekeeper to a mobile game where you can take care of virtual plants, find out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

Recycled Rewards Cards – North America

New and current members of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card or the Reserve Business American Express Card can now keep a piece of a plane in their pockets.

Members can order a limited edition metal card made out of a 25% airplane metal from Delta Ship #6307, a Boeing 747-451 aircraft that was retired in 2018. The card’s metal comes from harvested aluminum alloys that once made up the plane’s fuselage and wing spars. The card’s design resembles a boarding pass and displays the plane’s iconic silhouette. Cardholders have exclusive access to an augmented reality experience that comes with the card’s welcome kit that walks them through the history of the Boeing 747, flight stories and the card’s development process.

This limited edition card is an exclusive offering that helps connect rewards members to the Delta brand by allowing them to carry a piece of aviation history with them. While personalized credit card art can be made to a cardholder’s specifications and preferences, this recycled card is an exclusive offering that is unique to SkyMiles cardholders who may already enjoy the perks of an exclusive rewards card. Metal cards themselves are prestigious, often signaling more premium rewards and benefits. This initiative follows this principle, but also makes upcycling more appealing by focusing on the nostalgia and history of the Delta brand.

Consumers are making up for lost time due to pandemic restrictions and are in pursuit of new experiences through travel. With a wide variety of travel rewards programs to choose from, consumers will consider brands they are already familiar with rather than going with an unfamiliar option. For the travel and tourism industry, trust will be an important factor in retaining loyal consumers. Brands can leverage their history and trustworthiness in order to appeal to consumers who need an escape from the stress and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. With this, there will be a growing demand for travel experiences that cater to consumers’ nostalgia for the past. This can take the form of retro-inspired décor or even vintage taxis instead of modern hotel shuttles.

Kimberly Hernandez – Associate Analyst, Mintel Trends, North America

Midea’s Home Service Robot – China

The robot, named ‘XIAOWEI’ (小惟), will be launched under Midea Group’s home service brand WISHUG. As the entrance of Midea’s smart home solution, XIAOWEI is one meter tall and its ‘head’ is a screen that acts as an intelligent control center, which is able to access smart home appliances and IoT services (Internet of Things – a network of connected objects that collect and exchange data). XIAOWEI can play roles including AI housekeeper, household assistant, security and playmate to help make consumers’ daily lives easier. For instance, when the robot detects a family member is coming home, it will help the user turn on the lights, air conditioner and air purifier beforehand to create a comfortable home.

Chinese consumers are showing interest in upgrading their living spaces into a smart home. Beyond popular standalone smart products, some domestic and foreign players in the market are stepping up in the interconnected smart home system. There have been many smart speakers positioned as an entrance to a smart home system, which have experienced huge growth in the past few years. Integrated home service robots are a relatively new concept in China, which are expected to help consumers control their smart home seamlessly through the robotic hub. As an appliance manufacturer, Midea’s launch shows its ambition to move forward in the smart home ecosystem by riding on its high awareness and reputation in the home appliance sector.

With the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and uncertainties about economic prospects, many consumers will most likely remain hesitant in the short term to make big-ticket purchases like houses and high-technology smart home system upgrades. Despite this, consumers are longing for a better quality of life and want to feel in control, which will continue to push the smart home industry forward in the long run. As health and wellbeing will continue to be the priority for consumers due to the pandemic, more businesses will bank on smart home healthcare services. Smart home products for elderly care will also see a rise in the aging society.

Victoria Li – Senior Analyst, Mintel Trends, China

Kinder World – Australia 

The Melbourne-based start-up recently obtained US$6.75 million to fuel the development of its mobile game, Kinder World, set to launch later in 2022.

Rather than competition or achievements, the main aim of the game is to help its users relax by taking care of their virtual houseplants by looking after themselves in the real world. Players can write kindness notes for others, and participate in evidence-based wellbeing exercises, like naming their emotions, expressing gratitude and penning their thoughts – which contribute to caring for their virtual plants and the wider community of players. Kinder World is intentionally designed to be played in short, five-minute sessions and the houseplants never die, so players can leave and come back to it whenever they want.

While many mindfulness and meditation apps have been downloaded by consumers, many also struggle to make using them a habit, becoming something users could feel like they’ve failed at. Slow games like Animal Crossing also gained popularity amidst the pandemic, providing players with a pressure-free environment to create their own safe space in the game. Kinder World seeks to bridge the gaps between slow gaming and evidenced-based wellbeing exercises, creating a space consumers visit for a dose of positivity rather than a time-sink, and promoting both individual and community kindness.

Ongoing global uncertainty and the rising cost of living add to the host of unresolved long-term issues caused by the pandemic. As such, stress and anxiety are expected to continue affecting the lives of many consumers and mental wellbeing will remain an important topic to be addressed in the years to come. Solutions could emerge from digital technologies that already play a large role in the lives of many consumers. Making it enjoyable, easy to engage and helpful will be a priority. Create tools and services that can become a source of community and support to consumers, provide them with nudges towards better habits and empower them with frameworks to be more relaxed, productive and engaged with their lives.

Joey Khong Analyst, Mintel Trends, Southeast Asia

Rediscovering Pulque – Mexico

Pulque is a pre-Hispanic drink that is considered to be of the gods. Thousands of legends surround its origin: it is said that the drink was part of Aztec rituals that facilitated communication with the gods. Pulque Octli brings together this long standing history, a range of unique designs and a bottled format, making the product ideal to enjoy on any occasion. From a wellbeing perspective, this Mexican drink is often considered a food thanks to its probiotic nutritional properties. Furthering these wellbeing claims, Pulque Octli contains no artificial additives or preservatives.

The contemporary consumer’s eagerness for better-for-you and clean-label food products has spilled over into the beverage market. People are looking for drinks with high nutritional value to better fuel their busy lives and foster their overall sense of wellbeing, and beverage brands are blurring category lines to deliver products that facilitate natural, holistic lifestyles. The rise of these categories began before COVID, but they are now capturing the attention of adults across all generations.

However, it must be said that the pandemic has given rise to more flexible lifestyles that blur the boundaries between work and personal time and no longer run on strict schedules. Alternatives to almost everything are emerging, and in the drinks industry this shift is manifesting not just in tasty beverages but in nutritional drinks that deliver on convenience and efficacy in order to appeal to today’s on-the-go consumers. In this context, ancestral beverages are taking on a new lease of life, appreciated for the health benefits of their contents, containing probiotics, prebiotics, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, botanicals and adaptogens, for example.

As explained by Mintel’s Wellbeing Trend Driver, as consumers in search of increased physical and mental performance become more open to incorporating new foods and beverages into their diets, many ancient and time-honored traditional ingredients, foods and beverages will find their rebirth. Through packaging, processes and flavors that suit current tastes and appetites, we will see the emergence of drinks that are simultaneously new and old. The traditions and customs of past generations will serve as a support system as brands attempt to market ingredients, flavors and products that have proven effective in the past.

Beatriz Monteiro- Senior Analyst, Mintel Trend, Latin America

Limited Edition Adidas –  United Arab Emirates

This collaboration and the launch of the SUPERSTAR RAVI trainers are part of Adidas’ collaborative project with 11 small and local restaurants in 11 different cities around the world, with the aim of recognizing the community spirit created in and around local restaurants. Opened in 1978, Ravi Restaurant is popular among both expats and locals, offering traditional Pakistani dishes. To preserve the small and local communities created around local restaurants, Adidas is working directly with the owners to create sneakers with the same unique flair as restaurants.

The globalization of cultures is more common than ever with technology bringing humans around the world closer together and brands continuing to expand their reach as far as they can. This Adidas collaboration with a family-owned restaurant in Dubai is testament to this. For many locals, this is a favorite spot in Dubai, making the partnership even more unique. Consumers are increasingly drawn to novelty versions of their beloved products because they give them a sense of exclusivity and priceless value. While the market is saturated with fast fashion goods, unique and local collaborations that focus on local aspects can draw on consumers’ desire to feel part of a community.

Mintel’s Trend Driver Surroundings shows how consumers value cultural identity or connection with a location. Events such as a global pandemic have destabilized many, which further deepens the spirit of shared identity. Both international and local brands could focus on localizing products and services from collaborating with local artists or coming up with schemes to support the local community. Additionally, moving forward, brands will gravitate towards releasing more exclusive or limited products; as the Mintel Trend Driver Value suggests, consumers are more likely to purchase premium versions of products if they are deemed exclusive and rare.

Sarah Al Shaalan- Senior Analyst, Mintel Trend, Europe