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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 capsule bed hostel in Central London to a new chocolate flavour determined by artificial intelligence, find out what are the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

The News With a Little AR, US

The New York Times integrated augmented reality content into its online platform with a focus on the 2018 Winter Olympics. The new platform included activations for figure skating, speed skating, snowboarding, ice hockey and ice dancing. For example, a reader who was in their living room and viewing an article about figure skater Nathan Chen saw a 3D image of the athlete in a mid-air quadruple jump in the centre of the room via their mobile device.

According to Mintel’s US report Marketing to Middle Americans, seven in 10 Americans say they get the news online and about four in 10 say they regularly use a news website to get the news. The New York Times has identified an opportunity to enhance consumers’ online news navigation by offering this unique experience. Other brands are working to provide consumers with one-of-a-kind experiences that bring concepts and products to life as well. Similar to The New York Times’ AR platform, we’ve seen NBC broadcast the 2016 Olympic Games in VR and the White House launch an application that allows people to explore its rooms and the South Lawn in augmented reality.

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Iliana Alvarenga – Trends Analyst, North America

Would You Drink This? China

To raise awareness about the poor quality of drinking water experienced by children living in some of China’s rural areas, financial consultancy firm CreditEase installed a vending machine in a Beijing shopping mall that dispensed turbid water. Once shoppers got their free glass of water, a video showing children with no access to clean drinking water started to play on the screen. Shoppers could scan a QR code to share the campaign via social media; in return, CreditEase donated one day’s worth of clean drinking water to one affected child.

China’s economic development over the past few decades has come at a high price. While we have already seen many initiatives to tackle air pollution, the quality of water should also be a priority. Brands that embrace the cause will most likely be appreciated by consumers who are becoming more and more environmentally friendly. In fact, this will be increasingly important as the Chinese government is keen to show the rest of the world how the needs of its burgeoning population can be served without compromising its ecological goals.

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Joyce Lam – Trends Analyst, Asia Pacific

The Power of PB&J, UK/US

The peanut butter and jam sandwich is influencing flavour innovation in the snacking and drinks markets, playing to consumer demand for nostalgic experiences. Master of Malt has created the Peanut Butter & Jam Old Fashioned, a ready-to-drink cocktail hand sealed with raspberry jam-scented wax, while Theo Chocolate has released Peanut Butter and Jelly Chocolate Clusters, combining peanuts with freeze-dried raspberries.

The influence of American culture on the UK – through TV shows and movies – means that ‘PB&J’ still has resonance for UK consumers for whom thise sandwich may not have been a staple of their childhood, but still associate the flavour with an idyll of sorts. Brands in the food and drink sector can explore a more fluid understanding of nostalgia – the power of flavours and ingredients to allow consumers to escape, not just into their own history, but into the history of other cultures.

Simon Moriarty – Director of Trends, EMEA

A bed for the night, UK

St Christopher’s At The Village, a central London hostel, is the first accommodation in the country to offer capsule beds – a space-saving, budget concept that is commonly found in cities across China and Japan. The pods are big enough to sit up in, with each featuring mood lighting, free Wi-Fi, plug sockets, privacy curtains and a ventilation system to keep it cool.

The rapid growth of urban populations is leading to cities becoming more cramped and more expensive, an issue not just for citizens but for tourists too, who are likely to be put off by the high prices of accommodation. From £25 a night, the low price of capsule beds is likely to appeal to budget-conscious travellers. Indeed, 47% of Brits who’ve been on short breaks in the last 12 months say the rising cost of living means they are likely to take fewer short breaks compared to the last 12 months, according to the Mintel’s report on short and city breaks.

Sophie Corfan – Manager of Trends, EMEA

My First Mate, Argentina

CBSé has launched “Mi Primer Mate,” a new tutti-frutti flavoured mate kit aimed at children featuring a series of popular comic strip characters. Mate is one of the most popular drinks in Argentina and is the beverage of choice for staying alert during the workday. Even though people of all ages drink it, CBSé’s new launch targeting children represents a milestone in the industry.

In an increasingly competitive market, a number of brands are branching out to target new consumer groups. Children have become an important focus of several recent launches. Many of these new kids-focused concepts were inspired by innovations which were originally created for adults. Indeed, we’ve seen Facebook launch Messenger Kids, a new app that makes it easier for kids to safely video chat and message with family and friends, while WeWork rolled-out an entrepreneurial school for children.

Graciana Méndez – Trends Analyst, Latin America

Audi AR, Norway

Audi Norway has launched the Quattro Coaster AR app, which enables people to view its latest TV ad in augmented reality. An interactive experience is triggered by the brand’s television commercial, with an Audi Quattro model bursting out of the TV screen and into viewers’ living rooms in AR.

The ability to engage people in an immersive augmented reality experience holds particular potential for automotive brands, given that most cars are bought in showrooms, which are typically located out of town. Both augmented and virtual reality offer brands a unique and exciting means of letting potential customers experience their products. These approaches allow to engage consumers on a whole different level and add value when combined with traditional advertising.

Adam Steel – Trends Analyst, EMEA

Tastes Robotic, Japan

Lotte has launched a new flavour of its Toppo chocolate-filled pretzel snacks which was chosen using artificial intelligence technology. The programme analysed data regarding consumers’ preferred flavours and ingredients, before deciding that calamansi fruit could be a potential hit as it was supposedly compatible with chocolate.

According to Mintel Market Sizes, Japan’s chocolate market is relatively stagnant, only forecast to increase by 0.4% during 2018. Hence, innovation in terms of flavour and marketing is highly essential to keep consumers interested. Lotte’s inclusion of AI technology in its decision-making process could be an attractive selling point and could encourage consumers to take a chance on this new creation. Brands will do well to keep up with tech innovations and embrace creative ways to spice up their next launches.

Delon Wang – Manager of Trends, APAC