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Hotspots brings you the Mintel Trends team’s top observations on product and service launches from around the world. From genetically modified wood to edible packaging, find out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

Drink the coffee, eat the cup – Denmark

The Danish Technological Institute has begun development of edible packaging as an alternative to disposable cutlery and coffee cups.

The goal is to create the items from residual products from food production, such as coffee husks, fig sticks and bran from flour production. The first items being developed are a spoon and a takeaway coffee cup, which can either be eaten or put in the compost bin.

The scale of plastic pollution and the impact of the current throwaway culture on the environment have become increasingly transparent to consumers. As a result, they are searching for alternatives to minimize waste, particularly disposable single-use plastics. While they remain niche, there are more projects exploring edible packaging as a circular option. Challenges lie in making these materials sturdy, while still being appealing enough to eat. In addition to edible and biodegradable innovations, brands are developing various reusable packaging solutions as well to help consumers adopt zero-waste habits.

The Trend Driver Surroundings outlines the way consumer behavior will continue to shift in the face of the climate crisis. Concern for the environment is strong, so they look to – and even demand – brands give them sustainable options. Rising zero-waste values mean that single-use plastics will become highly frowned upon with consumers seeking circular and reusable solutions in all parts of life. Edible and biodegradable materials will be a must for any disposable items, and consumers will also expect brands to make composting more accessible, such as by allowing consumers to return compostable packaging to shops.

Liisa Kontas- Senior Analyst, Mintel Trends, Europe

Meet Satiko – LATAM

Virtual influencer Satiko is an avatar of Brazilian presenter Sabrina Sato. The avatar is a digital version of Sato, but has a personality and an Instagram account of her own. The presenter’s project with Biobots engages with something that is currently in the spotlight: the metaverse.

The metaverse has become an exciting arena for influencers seeking to create digital versions of themselves and expand their reach. These characters are an innovative marketing tool attracting a lot of attention on social media. For brands looking to promote their services on social networks, there are many advantages to working with these types of influencers. The most significant is there is a reduced likelihood of the creation of offensive or insensitive content. There is a sense of newness to this concept that will appeal to a younger generation who see influencers as role models.

Virtual influencers and their activities in the virtual world are taking the internet to the next stage, acting as the center of gamified interactions with consumers, as highlighted by the Mintel’s 2022 Global Consumer Trend Enjoyment Everywhere. As real-world influencers continue to engage with virtual personas, global brands are embracing this trend as part of their digital marketing strategies. In the future, virtual identities will cover a wider range of platforms and themes, including journalism and cooking. As we move into the metaverse brands will start to create AI-powered avatars that are fit for purpose.

Beatriz Monteiro – Senior Analyst, Mintel Trend, Latin America

Gene-edited wood – North America

TreeCo is a biotech start-up founded by researchers from North Carolina State University that is working to produce genetically modified wood. Using CRISPR gene-editing technology, the researchers are able to locate and isolate tree traits that reduce the cost and energy needed to transform this wood into pulp, enhancing the commercial value of the lumber produced from these trees. Understanding which genes are responsible for certain traits allows the researchers to isolate and breed for improved performance, without needing to modify the tree DNA itself. This process also enables the researchers to produce a faster breeding cycle and increased genetic diversity with traits that improve frost tolerance and disease resistance.

Genetic modifications can improve the environmental impact of plant-based products and the industries reliant on these materials. As climate change continues to impact the growing conditions of commercial crops, brands are taking steps to improve their environmental impact as these materials begin to require more resources to produce. Genetic modification may not necessarily align with consumers’ personal preferences for edible products, but they may grow to accept this technology as a way for essential products to stay resilient amid changing climatic conditions.

Brands and consumers are looking for new and innovative ways to improve their environmental impact. Going forward, the standards for sustainable design will need to prioritize circularity by using recycled materials. In places where new materials are necessary to maintain structural integrity or quality, genetic engineering can be implemented to ensure the most efficient use of resources possible.

Kimberly Hernandez – Associate Analyst, Mintel Trends, North America

Manage your food storage – China

Food storage and food waste are taking on new meanings as the food supply problem in the city of Shanghai amid the recent COVID-19 lockdown comes into the spotlight. This has triggered many people in other areas of China to take food storage more seriously and even begin to stockpile food. As a result, some of them are actively considering buying or have bought new refrigerators to expand in-home food storage space, and are exploring how to keep food fresh and cut down on waste. There will be more brands and companies helping consumers take better control of their food inventory without much effort.

By improving the efficiency of pattern recognition, this new technology aims to help consumers manage their food storage inventory easier. The camera, installed inside the refrigerator, can analyze the movement track of food to tell if they are kept in or taken out of the refrigerator. Haier leverages a smart camera to capture images of food stored in the refrigerator and takes initiatives in compliance, security and privacy in response to the concerns over data privacy.

Consumers’ behavior that centers on food and essentials will continue even after the COVID-19 crisis disappears. Consumers will also pay more attention to value-oriented choices and stick to their budget in the context of less optimistic attitudes towards economic growth. They will consider more value-for-money and longer-shelf-life options when buying groceries. On the other hand, as consumers have a growing awareness of sustainability, they will look for more ways to focus on eco-friendly food systems. Businesses will be challenged to make a substantial change on issues like over-production and overuse of resources to reduce food waste.

Victoria Li – Senior Analyst, Mintel Trends, China

The FoodPlant – Singapore

FoodPlant – a joint effort between the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and government agencies, Enterprise SG and JTC facility – was established with the aim of bolstering innovation in Singapore’s food scene.
To promote creativity and innovations, testing grounds are necessary. Ideally, multiple product samples that utilize various materials, ingredients and processes, can be evaluated side by side to determine their appeal and scalability before deciding on which to move forward with. However, for smaller businesses and start-ups looking to break into the industry, R&D can be riddled with ‘pay-walls,’ requiring them to test items in ways that aren’t cost-effective or practical. Many production machines are also expensive to procure and maintain, making it unreasonable for companies to invest in, especially in the early stages. FoodPlant plans to help 200 manufacturers and accelerate the development of 400 new products by 2026. Its openness towards partnership and collaborations could provide its users with fertile ground for knowledge-sharing and networking amongst brands and institutions.

The encouragement of new ideas will remain important for nations and businesses that aim to lead innovations within their industries. There will be an increase of incubation hubs, testing plants and collaborative facilities that support the development of these ideas from concepts into viable business ventures. With things like cloud kitchens and shared manufacturing locations, businesses in the future will be able to operate more sustainably, with increased agility and reduced operational costs, all while having access to the latest technologies and capabilities.

Joey Khong – Analyst, Mintel Trends, Southeast Asia