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 an anti-harassment scream detector to edible, environmentally friendly chopsticks, find out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

Offset Your Ice Cream – UK

Ben & Jerry’s is inviting customers to offset the carbon footprint of their ice cream by donating an additional penny with each purchase. The scheme uses technology developed by not-for-profit organisation The Poseidon Foundation. The platform calculates the carbon footprint of each purchase automatically – from farming cows to transportation of the product. The brand will donate a penny to offset these emissions by donating money to a forest conservation project in Peru, with customers invited to match this.

The innovation is part of a number of new initiatives that aim to involve consumers in the charitable efforts of brands. Such strategies move beyond conventional CSR to engage directly with consumers and make them part of the decision process. For example, customers of fashion brand Ninety Percent are invited to vote on which charitable causes will receive the majority share of the label’s profits, while Knorr has introduced a new video ad format that allows viewers to choose a charity to benefit if they watch an ad for at least 15 seconds. According to Mintel’s research on ethical lifestyles, 67% of UK consumers agree it’s more appealing to act in a more environmentally friendly way when you can see the results of your actions.

Sophie Corfan – Manager of Trends, EMEA

Scream Detector – South Korea

Seoul Metro has installed Safe Mate, a scream detection system in its women’s toilets. If a scream is detected, Safe Mate will activate warning lights near the entrance of the toilet and automatically contact staff at the station. Seoul Metro plans to develop the system so that it can automatically report any incidents to the police upon detecting a scream.

We’ve seen brands and authorities in different countries rolling out new initiatives to give consumers a sense of safety and assurance. For example, Abu Dhabi launched an app that can request an ambulance at the touch of a button and help reduce emergency response times. Designed in Germany, Ploota is a compact sensor-controlled swimming safety device that can be worn around the neck. The scream detection system will put commuters’ minds at ease to a certain extent, and in today’s world – where fear spreads faster thanks to the growing use of social media – brands that prioritise safety are likely to win consumers’ trust.

Delon Wang – Manager of Trends, APAC

Tasty Chopsticks – China has developed eco-friendly, edible chopsticks that will be distributed in partnership with two restaurant chains. The chopsticks are made from flour, butter, sugar, milk and water, and come in three different flavours: whole wheat, matcha and purple sweet potato.

Plastic bags and boxes, excessive wrapping paper and disposable tableware are piling up in our kitchens, offices and even recreational sites. A number of other foodservice brands are already looking for more sustainable materials that can emerge as alternatives to plastic utensils and packaging. In the UK, McDonald’s and Waitrose have both announced that they are banning the use of plastic straws in their restaurants and cafés respectively; meanwhile, in India, KFC trialled edible bowls in a bid to reduce plastic packaging waste. While outlets using environmentally non-friendly packaging may not directly lose customers, restaurants that are trying to become more sustainable are likely to win consumers’ appreciation.

Joyce Lam – Trends Analyst, Asia Pacific

A Robot Friend – US

A growing number of healthcare companies are testing out robotic services for senior citizens, which can do everything from keep them company to monitor their health, providing a stronger level of independence for an aging population. Element Care in Boston announced in April 2018 it would start using digital avatars to remind patients to take their medication. In San Francisco, Catalia Health is testing out a robot named Mabu which acts like a virtual nurse and caretaker.

Managing the healthcare needs of the senior population is an area that requires innovation. Despite not being digital natives, 38% of over-65s are motivated to go to healthcare providers that use cutting-edge technology, according to Mintel’s research on seniors and health. However, in order for digital services to support an elderly base, this generation also needs help in understanding technology, especially when they don’t have children and grandchildren to rely on. A balance between digital accessibility, knowledge and a human touch will be key to enable a new generation of seniors to succeed independently.

Diana Kelter – Senior Trends Analyst, US

Dive into Pride – Brazil

A São Paulo-based Calvin Klein outlet has installed a ball pit in its shop window for Gay Pride Parade, inviting people to dive, take pictures and play. The campaign was supported by Calvin Klein Pride multipacks, including underwear pieces available for both women and men in the colours of the rainbow, with 10% of the proceeds donated to LGBT advocate Casa 1.

Consumers are increasingly sharing every bit of their lives on social media. One in four Brazilian consumers say they share photos on Instagram and WhatsApp of branded products that they buy, according to Mintel’s Brazilian research on marketing to the Middle Classes. Calvin Klein’s ball pit is tapping into this by creating an Instagrammable opportunity—a perfect spot for selfies. But the action is also responding to consumers’ desire for exciting moments and childlike fun to release some grown-up tension. Creating spaces that combine shopping, entertainment and ethical consumption is a good strategy to attract consumers and stand out from competitors.

Graciana Méndez – Trends Analyst, Latin America