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 lab-grown pork to a road made with recyclable plastic, find out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

US – A Coca-Cola VIP

Coca-Cola has launched a new subscription service that allows a select amount of consumers to test new products before they launch. The initial 1,000-person limit sold out within three hours of the subscription service going live. Each month, the current list of subscribers will receive three new beverages that have yet to be released. The subscription service is set to last six months and costs either $50 upfront (with one month free) or a monthly fee of $10.

Focus groups are not a new concept for CPG companies. However, with the launch of the Coca-Cola Insiders, Coke is making focus groups feel like an exclusive experience versus a boardroom business need. Brands can receive instant feedback on social media, it just might not be from dedicated fans of the brand. This subscription service is Coke’s way of putting focus toward its core fan base versus trying to appeal to everyone, and that’s a strategy more brands are having to take.

Source: Coca-Cola

Diana Kelter – Senior Trends Analyst, US

China – Sheep and Shopping

The newly opened SKP department store in Beijing is a futuristic retail experience space, which features Martians, robotic sheep and kinetic penguins. The concept of the department store is inspired by the idea that digital science and technology are introducing a world where machines take over information and AI manipulates human memories.

SKP’s avant-garde retail design aims to keep shoppers a little longer within the shopping area than the average shopping mall. The maze of artworks is more likely to stop consumers to take a moment to appreciate the installations and take pictures or selfies for their social media profiles. This will also give luxury brands the needed time to capture shoppers’ attention and use storytelling techniques to express the brands’ values, which, when the story is in line with the values of consumers, should lead to an emotional bonding.

Source: Inside Retail Asia

Joyce Lam – Trends Analyst, Asia Pacific

Netherlands – Cultured Pork

Dutch start-up Meatable is developing sustainable and cruelty-free lab-grown pork after switching its focus from beef as a response to rising global pork prices. Meatable’s technology allows for manufacturing of cultured (lab-grown) meat derived from animal cells without harming live animals. The method has potential for significantly smaller environmental impact, with the brand estimating cultured meat could use 96% less water and 99% less land than industrial farming. If facilities were powered with renewable energy, emissions could be further reduced. The brand will have a small-scale bioreactor ready in 2020, and plans for an industry-scale plant by 2025.

Due to being eco-friendly and cruelty-free, beef substitutes such as plant-based burgers have been growing in popularity. Brands are now looking at other popular meats such as pork, the price of which has been increasing globally due to African swine fever affecting supply while demand is growing, particularly in China.

Source: Meatable

Liisa Kontas – Trend Analyst, Nordic

Mexico – Paving the way

Mexico Paves is the first road partially made of recycled plastics. The Guanajuato highway, a 4km stretch, became the first in Mexico to be made with recycled plastic. The project used 1.7 tons of plastic, which equates to 425,000 plastic packaging units. Aside from offering a solution for the use of recycled plastics, it also reportedly helps elongate the lifespan of highways by up to 50%, according to Dow Chemical, the company that has developed the plastic-derived asphalt road in partnership with the Mexican Ministry of Communications and Transportation (SCT).

As public awareness and outcry against plastic waste continue to grow, we are seeing companies converting single-use plastics into high-quality products. These initiatives help remove plastic pollution from the environment and contribute to a circular economy, upcycling low-value waste plastics into more valuable products, such as asphalt, car components, luggage and even high-end designer clothing.

Source: Remezcla

Vanessa Rondine – Trends Analyst – Latin America

Indonesia – Smart Detox

Indonesian students have invented an ‘internet detox’ device for people who spend too much time online called Nettox. Worn on the wrist, Nettox measures heart rate variability and hemoglobin oxygen levels, both of which are believed to be adversely impacted by excessive mobile phone use. The device emits a sound when those rates hit a certain range to alert users that it’s time to drop the phone.

Fueled by omnipresent social media and messaging networks plus relentless lifestyle app promotions, live streaming feeds and new gaming releases, online addiction is an emerging health issue among Indonesian Millennials. The Nettox team created the digital detox device as an aid for changing behaviours among phone users who want to stay healthy but realise their phone exerts a vice-like grip on their daily lives. They are currently undertaking further research to personalise the device to each user’s own unique bodily rhythms with a view to achieving a patent in 2020.

Elysha Young – Trends Manager – Asia Pacific