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 drive-in haunted house to a facial recognition system to protect supermarket staff members from registered criminals, find out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

Japan – Drive-in Haunted House

Tokyo welcomes the world’s first drive-in haunted house, wherein visitors can request spooky encounters from the comfort of their car. Located in Higashi Azabu district, design company Kowagarasetai, which means ‘scary troop’, has devised a haunted attraction which takes place in a garage this summer.

Parked vehicles will be available for walk-in guests to rent and experience an array of ghouls and ghosts attacking the car. Additional details are provided by the car’s radio as the narrator explains the garage’s gruesome past. Each car can house up to four guests and the seats are carefully disinfected between each session.

Japanese summers have their fair share of traditions, from firework tournaments and matsuri (festivals) to scary movies and spooky tales. Summer is traditionally the season for horror in Japan because of the ‘chilling’ effect of listening to ghost stories, which can be a great relief during the nation’s sweltering weather. Amusement parks are key summer vacation destination sites for many Japanese consumers, especially amongst younger crowds who seek thrills at haunted attractions and rollercoasters. Yet, with the impact of COVID-19, many are cautious about visiting crowded areas and theme parks are operating under limited hours. Kowagarasetai’s drive-in attraction allows consumers to Experience the fear factor while in a safe and controlled environment.

– Elysha Young – Trends Manager, APAC

Spain – Retail Surveillance

Mercadona supermarket has installed facial recognition systems to protect staff members from registered criminals and people with restraining orders. The Spanish supermarket chain has installed the systems in 40 of its stores. These will exclusively detect the faces of those with criminal sentences and restraining orders against them. Mercadona has assured customers that the data is not stored as footage gets deleted after 0.3 seconds. If a criminal enters the establishment, staff can verify their identity in order to contact the local authorities.

Biometric technologies are allowing governments and brands to innovate in order to keep consumers safe. We are seeing an increase in the use of facial recognition systems for surveillance due to their efficiency, efficacy and convenience. Retailers are now going beyond biometric payments and using facial recognition to make sure consumers adhere to rules and regulations, protect staff members and avoid theft and its costs. Privacy concerns are making some skeptical of these technologies so brands are needing to be more transparent about the use of data and efforts to ensure privacy protection.

– Borja Valladolid – Trends Analyst, Europe

US – Alone, but Not Lonely

Studies ranging from Johns Hopkins University, Florida State University of College Medicine, and the University of Washington are all similarly highlighting that the pandemic and the associated isolation haven’t caused a spike in loneliness. It’s important to highlight these studies specifically focused on loneliness and didn’t dive into other mental health concerns, such as anxiety or depression.

As stay-at-home orders took hold across the US at the start of March, it was assumed there would be significant spikes in loneliness, specifically because loneliness was already on the rise as Mintel observes within its ‘Social Isolation’ Trend. However, this new research is indicating that hasn’t come to fruition, in large part because of technological connection. A collective sense of physical isolation in many ways made technology the cure for isolation versus the cause. It’s also important to call out that for individuals quarantining with their family or a significant other, loneliness might be the furthest thing from their mind. In fact, Potbelly Sandwich Shop even started offering alone time parking spaces for parents so they could have a moment of peace to eat alone.

– Diana Kelter – Senior Trends Analyst, US

Brazil – Virtual Perfume

Natura has launched “Perfumed Quiz,” an online tool to help consumers virtually find the right fragrance for them in times when sensorial stimuli are restricted due to social isolation. The quiz brings a sensorial approach to the asked questions, replacing ingredient-focused ones with the sensation consumers look for when using the perfume. “Feel good,” “bring lightness,” or “brighten mood” are among the available answers that are applied for feminine and neutral fragrances, as well as masculine ones. At the end of the quiz, consumers are redirected to a personalized landing page where they are able to access and purchase all products that suit their preferences.

Natura’s action is a really bold, yet simple step on combining technology convenience and sensorial approach to offer guidance to consumers. The abundance of offerings the beauty segment has creates overwhelming confusion, while the available online guidance tools still offer limited help as they rely on olfactory notes’ terms that are unclear and unable to convey the emotional side of the segment to customers. By adapting terms, Natura places emotions at the center of the online purchase process and uses them as a core tool to provide effective guidance on consumers’ choices, increasing emotional connections with them.

– Vanessa Rondine – Trends Analyst, Latin America

Singapore – Banking on Urban Farming

DBS Bank is building an urban farm for its employees next to one of its Singapore offices. Touted to be Singapore’s first community farm on the premises of a bank, the DBS Food Forest will feature more than 50 varieties of edible plants and herbs that Singaporeans consume every day. The farm, outside the DBS Asia Hub building in Changi Business Park, will be completed later this year. The initiative aims to engage its employees to gain access to hands-on farming opportunities at the workplace, while allowing for the outdoor space to be better utilised. The community garden will also come with eco-friendly features. Waste generated by the in-house cafeteria will be used as fertiliser for the Food Forest. To save water, a waste-efficient drip irrigation system will be installed.

Singapore is land-scarce and relies heavily on imported food supplies. With a growing population, environmental challenges and food security concerns, a number of urban farms have been emerging in the city-state over the past few years. There is also a growing appreciation for nutritional health and the value of consuming fresh food that is grown locally, as well as an increased concern about environmental degradation. Thus, urban farming activities that involve consumers directly can provide them with opportunities to be a little more self-sufficient and sustainable.

– Melanie Nambiar – Trends Analyst, Southeast Asia