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Hotspots brings you the Mintel Trends team’s top observations on product and service launches from around the world. From the inclusion of male cheerleaders in the NFL for the first time, to the wine store of the future, find out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

Male NFL Cheerleaders – US

In the upcoming 2018 American football season, male cheerleaders will be on the field for the first time in NFL history. The LA Rams and the New Orleans Saints will have men in their cheerleading squads, with the Rams adding two and the Saintsations adding one.

Brands that have positioning within traditionally gendered products and markets have experienced difficulty in consumer acquisition, but have also found newfound opportunities for change and growth. Transformation always poses a risk, but consumers appreciate brands that take risks in order to change. Boy Scouts started welcoming girls into their organisation in 2017 and then changed the name to Scouts BSA in order to be more gender-inclusive. Sephora partnered with GIRLGAMER Esports Festival, challenging the stereotypical view that gaming is reserved as a traditionally masculine activity. Consumers are challenging the narratives of gender stereotypes and are looking for brands to challenge with them.

Alex Milinazzo, Trends Analyst, North America

Free-Plastic Ride

Legoland and Thorpe Park are offering half-price entry in exchange for used plastic bottles. As a trial, the UK theme parks have joined Coca-Cola in this recycling incentive. A series of “reverse vending machines” will be installed outside the entrances of Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures and Legoland. The machines will reward users depositing any 500ml plastic bottle with half-price discount vouchers that can be redeemed at a list of 30 attractions in the UK.

Recycling is a growing political, economic and societal concern. Choosing a theme park as a recycle base is a smart way to reach out to consumers in a positive mood. Overall, there is a growing desire to take care of the planet, with rewards more likely to engage consumers in positive behaviours. We have seen a few examples in Europe. A Dutch minister has proposed paying people to cycle to work as part of efforts to reduce road congestion and pollution, and borrowers in Wales will soon be able to take out a bigger mortgage when buying greener properties, under a new scheme aimed at encouraging energy-efficient behaviour.

Julie Gable, Trends Analyst, EMEA

Doodle Burger – Philippines

Last June, McDonald’s Philippines let social media users doodle a burger and have it delivered. According to the team, sketching, stickers and GIFs were encouraged, and users had to tag @McDo_PH and use the hashtag #Doodelivery before publishing their story to get the order.

Social media activity is one of the favourite pastimes of consumers today, and this holds true for the Philippines, which has reportedly one of the most active user populations globally. Creative and unique campaigns can be a way to stand out from the mass, utilising the power of social media and the desire to engage in playful interactions. However, simply creating games without any brand relevance will not help companies. Instead, they need to creatively connect unique selling points to such campaigns, and consider the overall messaging they wish to convey.

Delon Wang – Manager of Trends, APAC

Future Wine Bar – China, Hong Kong

Tmall has unveiled an automatic wine store concept that uses innovative technology at Vinexpo Hong Kong, to disrupt the wine industry and make the shopping experience more personal, engaging and convenient for consumers. The store utilises radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to display product information on nearby smart screens and give recommendations for food pairings, while a smart wine cooler can recognise which products customers have taken out and deduct payment automatically online.

Wine is gradually becoming a source of casual enjoyment for many Chinese consumers. According to Mintel’s report on wine in China, the amount of people drinking wine at home and in on-trade occasions is almost the same. In addition, 62% of respondents are interested in trying wines with unique tastes, while one third say they are willing to try wines that are produced in unique ways. Tmall’s Future Bar is trying to make it easy for consumers to understand more about the flavour and structure of wine, whether they’re shopping in-store or online.

Joyce Lam – Trends Analyst, Asia Pacific

Re-Inventing the Trash Can – US

New York City wants to redesign the trash can. A campaign known as the Better Bin Design Competition allows groups and individuals to submit a proposal for a new and improved trash can. Criteria requirements range from general aesthetics to overall sustainability and accessibility. Selected finalists will receive $40,000 to design prototypes for official experimental releases in spring 2019.

A trash can serves a simple purpose, but it’s that simplicity and everyday focus that is driving New York City to make it a focal point. New York City trash cans account for less than 2% of the city’s waste according to the Better Bin Competition, but making sustainable changes is often just as much about consumer perception as it is about the numbers. Such crowdsourced initiatives are quickly becoming a more common method for tackling innovation, even among top corporations. For instance, McDonald’s and Starbucks recently announced a competition open to anyone who can come up with a compostable cup solution.

Diana Kelter – Senior Trends Analyst, North America

Crypto Ethics – Brazil and TracyLocke Brazil have created a screensaver that mines cryptocurrency and turns it into donations, helping to promote changes in areas such as health, education, human rights, economics and politics. The more computers that mine together, the greater the processing power, thereby increasing the donations. The foundation then allocates the money raised to fulfill its mission throughout the world, with a special focus on Latin America and Brazil.

Financial brands have a clear advantage compared to other players to facilitate donations as they manage customers’ money. There’s scope to utilise new technologies to offer advice on which charities are more in line with consumers’ profiles. We’ve seen a number of chatbots offering financial advice, but these could also be used to guide consumers through the donation process. This advice will probably be embraced by consumers as it will save them time and effort and will make consumers feel that their actions are entirely in line with their ethical beliefs.

Graciana Méndez – Trends Analyst, Latin America