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Hotspots bring you the Mintel Trends team’s top observations on product and service launches from around the world. From a start-up that will begin human trials to test if brain implants can cure brain disorders to an airline launching live, online in-flight shopping, find out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

In Brain Implant – Spain

Barcelona-based start-up Inbrain will begin human trials later in 2021 to test if its brain implant can cure brain disorders. The implant, produced from graphene, took eight years to develop and has been tested in sheep brains. The start-up will begin its first ever human studies after receiving $17 million in funding. Inbrain is looking into the treatment of conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia. It also predicts that the implant will enable clinicians to understand individual brains, thus creating better treatments for conditions like epilepsy. The implant is paired with Inbrain’s AI data analytic platform, which is used to monitor a patient’s brain signals.

Medical innovation is enabling patients to find treatments and ways to improve previously hard to treat conditions such as blindness and to help the immune system’s defences. Disease monitoring is another area of medicine that is seeing innovation due to technological advances, leading to faster and more accurate ways of diagnosing diseases and physical conditions. Medical innovation is also being used by brands to develop new technology that enables consumers to monitor their physical conditions at home through apps. This helps consumers to take control of their health, alleviates stress and can make them healthier in the long run.

Tali Ramsey – Trends Analyst, EMEA

Shopping Live and In-flight – Singapore

Singapore Airlines has launched live online in-flight shopping on the KrisShop ecommerce platform. This will allow passengers to peruse more than 4,000 products across a wide range of categories, including exclusive airline merchandise, beauty products, fragrances, electronics and liquor. Customers can enjoy duty-free prices on orders that are delivered on their next Singapore Airlines flight or otherwise can have their purchases delivered directly to their home. This new shopping experience leverages an industry-first air-to-ground connectivity technology, which enables both live updates on product availability and credit card authorisation.

Travellers are something of a captive audience for the brands that can work out how to reach them. Often they don’t even have access to the internet, and so are beholden to whatever is on the screen in front of them. Consumers enjoy shopping and browsing as a pastime whether or not they intend to purchase anything, so on a long-haul flight being able to scroll through ads and products will actually be a welcome and entertaining distraction rather than a nuisance. For airlines that have struggled throughout COVID-19 while travel has been banned, new revenue streams will surely be very welcome.

Elysha Young – Trends Manager, APAC

A Letter to Space – China

To celebrate China’s space station launch, people can send their letters to the space post office. The ‘Space Letter’ package, which contains special letter paper, envelopes and postcards, is available in the Taobao store of China Aerospace. The space letter will be transformed into a soft copy and stored in a chip, which will be sent by the spacecraft to the “space post office” on the Chinese space station. China Aerospace hopes to inspire people’s attention to China’s aerospace industry and boost national pride.

China’s launch of a manned spacecraft, the Shenzhou 12 that delivered three astronauts to the new space station, and its exploration of space, is helping drive the public imagination. Recognising the passion for space elements, brands have responded. For example, local beauty brand Perfect Diary has teamed up with China Aerospace to launch eyeshadows inspired by the lunar probe ‘Jade Rabbit’. Automotive brand Haval launched a model F7 designed based on ‘space and high-tech aesthetics’. Consumers’ passions, triggered by the continuous achievements of China in exploring the universe, will invigorate more space-related creative designs and innovations by brands, catering to curiosity about space and nation pride.

Victoria Li, Trends Analyst, APAC

Healthy Subscription – Mexico

Mexican plant-based food company Heartbest Foods, has announced the launch of its new ecommerce platform, where customers will be able to purchase its vegan milks in one-time purchases or through a subscription model. The company produces a range of vegan milk, cheeses and creams including unique plant-based dairy drinks such as pea & amaranth.

Veganism is globally booming and driving new product development across every food category. Animal welfare and a lesser climate impact are the key environmental issues driving consumers to become seriously alert and thus avoid animal products. Furthermore, they are avoiding traditional dairy products in order to reduce cholesterol or other health concerns. In this scenario, dairy alternative products are one of the fastest-growing plant-based categories, as new-generation plant-based meat, egg and dairy products are becoming increasingly competitive with animal products on taste, price and accessibility. As a growing number of mainstream consumers are buying plant-based options, distribution is expanding, with alternatives to recurrent consumers to their homes and special monthly subscriptions for an already-captive audience.

Diana Kelter – Senior Trends Analyst, US

Apple Installments – US

Apple is working on a “Buy Now, Pay Later” service within Apple Pay. Apple will partner with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. as the lender for the loans, which is necessary for installment services. The service will work like other installment plan services. When an individual utilizes Apple Pay on their Apple device, they will have the option to pay for their product through a few installments in a short timeframe, with no interest. However, if they opt for a longer timeframe to pay for the purchase, interest will be incorporated. Any credit card can be linked to the individual’s Apple Pay in coordination with the installment offering.

The payment space is going through a significant evolution, and we’re seeing the innovation primarily come from outside the traditional players in the financial industry. Tech-focused companies are driving new momentum. Whether it’s Venmo, owned by PayPal, or installment payment services like Affirm and Afterpay, consumers are setting new standards and expectations for payments as a result of these services. This is also pushing both tech and finance companies to consistently expand their services so that they have a touchpoint across the entire payment journey.

Diana Kelter – Senior Trends Analyst, US