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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 digital fashion week to the first fully biodegradable plastic-free material made from milk protein, check out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

China – Digital Runway

Shanghai Fashion Week went completely online this year, featuring a week-long mega show where consumers could shop from over 100 brands in Tmall’s various livestream virtual shopping rooms. This show is the first of its kind, truly linking the runway with commerce in a one-stop, immersive fashion experience for all stakeholders involved.

During the week, viewers of the livestream could get to know the latest fashion trends, interact with the hosts, and place their orders directly. The format is a brand new exploration for fashion designers and traders, as well as a test-bed for future innovations in the fashion industry, according to the Fashion Week committee.

Authenticity and immediacy are the key drivers of consumers’ interest in livestreaming, bringing back the ‘human touch’ that is missing in online shopping, as consumers interact in real-time with the hosts, other viewers and brands to gather information or address concerns. The limited-time of livestreams generates excitement and encourages instant gratification which can potentially seal deals faster than regular online shopping. Online live streams for Shanghai Fashion Week, although created to circumvent the coronavirus crisis, make the usually exclusive event accessible to everyone across China, which will likely create more hype and lively interactions among consumers and brands during the week-long show.

Joyce Lam – Trends Analyst, Asia Pacific

France – The Milky Way

French company, Lactips has developed the first fully biodegradable plastic-free material made from milk protein. Lactips has created the plastic-free material by turning milk protein into pellets that mimic plastic. The material can be used as packaging, to create films, or substitute other plastics. The biodegradable pellets dissolve in warm and cold water and create a barrier to oxygen. They are currently being launched as fully bio-sourced packaging for detergent products. The company entered an agreement with the IMCD Group to distribute the material in France and the Nordic countries.

As climate concerns rise, both consumers and brands are taking their environmental impact into consideration. Consumers are changing purchasing habits and expect brands to offer greener solutions that help them make better choices. Brands are replacing unsustainable materials with biodegradables and recycled materials to minimise the usage of harmful materials. Dissoluble and edible packaging are proving to be important alternatives that pave the way for a sustainable and fully responsible future.

Borja Valladolid – Trends Analyst, Europe

Vietnam – Free Rice ATM

An entrepreneur has developed a ‘Rice ATM’ to dispense free rice to the poor and unemployed during COVID-19. Open around the clock, the free rice-dispensing machine distributes a 1.5kg supply of rice to people in need. The concept was initially launched in Ho Chi Minh City, and Rice ATMs have since sprung up in other cities, such as Hanoi, Da Nang and Hue.

Vietnam is rightfully proud of its delicious cuisines, and rice – whether stir-fried, boiled, or made into buns, noodles, and desserts – is a dietary staple. Vast tracts of fertile agricultural land also place it among the world’s top rice producers. This provides livelihoods in some of the nation’s poorest communities. But rice exports have been hit hard by COVID-19 trade shutdowns, especially as China is the largest buyer of Vietnam’s rice. The government is seeking to ensure a secure supply of rice for domestic consumption, but substantial financial hardship has been caused by the decline of rice exports. Panic buying and hoarding of everyday essentials by urban consumers have exacerbated the difficulties for socially disadvantaged citizens.

Melanie Nambar – Trends Analyst, Southeast Asia

US – Gaming Over a Burrito

Chipotle made its real-world gaming tournament virtual for 2020. Known as ‘The Chipotle Challenger Series’, the virtual gaming event kicked off with the competition taking place across several popular games. Winners of the tournament received $25,000 in cash, $25,000 to donate to COVID-19 relief efforts, and an exclusive gift card for a free year of Chipotle.

The pivot to virtual isn’t a huge shift for Chipotle since ‘The Challenger Series’ first occurred in Dallas last year and an investment in the e-sports community was already formed. In many ways, that investment is putting Chipotle ahead of the curve as e-sports gain mainstream popularity. The impact of COVID-19 has only put more attention toward the gaming industry, especially as traditional sport seasons see delayed starts. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, e-sports were growing in popularity, and the current need for virtual entertainment is driving brands to educate themselves on e-sports at a more rapid pace. However, it’s important that brands don’t jump past the educational step and dive right in. Understanding this community and how it functions is essential to successful engagement.

Source: Chipotle

Diana Kelter – Senior Trends Analyst, US

Brazil – Cleaning Prejudice

Sanitary odor-blocking brand, FreeCô selected mean-spirited tweets about women and printed them on toilet paper. The rolls were then distributed to bars in São Paulo, along with a supporting structure with the saying: “Put sexist comments where they belong: the trash.” To complement the action, the brand also launched social media video content where men and women discuss sexism and prejudice.

Although women battle prejudice on a daily basis, International Women’s Day is a date when brands are also supposed to address the issue and strengthen women’s voice – especially in Latin American countries, where gender inequality has become one of the main motivators of a growing protest culture. The Brazilian culture, however, is marked by a light-humored, fun approach to life, which is rarely considered adequate when rights are the center. FreeCô’s action managed to bring both things together while being strategic enough not to sound depreciative of women’s cause and created an approach that is very appealing to consumers as it is humorous while still critical of society’s biases.

Vanessa Rondine – Trends Analyst, Latin America