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Hotspots brings you the Mintel Trends team’s top observations on product and service launches from around the world. From gin made from recycled Budweiser to greenhouse technology that can produce crops with minimal water on marginal land, check out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

Japan – Revive Gin

Parent company of Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch has collaborated with Tokyo-based distiller Ethical Spirits to recycle an incredible surplus of beer, which was a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. To avoid the leftover beer going to waste, Ethical Spirits recycled 80,000 beers and turned them into a spirit that is thicker than traditionally produced gin. The drink is infused with juniper, hops, lemon peels, cinnamon, berries and beechwood chips – a mix that complements the inherent flavours of beer and pairs well with spicy and salty foods. A portion of proceeds from REVIVE Gin will be going towards Music Cross, a non-profit aid fund that supports Japan’s live music industry.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has led to many unprecedented challenges for brands and companies. Social behaviours were restricted for a long time to control the spread of the coronavirus, which meant that social drinking saw a lull for a big part of this year. To offset some of the losses, alcohol brands were and are still seeking ways to cut costs or increase sales in the ‘next normal’. By partnering with Ethical Spirits, Budweiser is able to not only use its oversupply of beer, but also improve its brand image by being sustainable and donating to struggling music artists. For consumers, buying a bottle of REVIVE Gin comes therefore with a much larger meaning and a greater story than just another bottle.

Elysha Young – Trends Manager, APAC

Saudi Arabia – High-Tech Greenhouse

Red Sea Farms in Saudi Arabia has developed greenhouse technology that can produce crops with minimal water on marginal land. The agritech start-up has found a sustainable, organic and pesticide-free farming solution. It substitutes freshwater with saltwater and applies greenhouse-cooling technology that reduces fresh-water use by 90% and uses 2-6 times less energy than conventional, mechanically cooled greenhouse. So far it has developed salt-tolerant, non-GMO cherry tomatoes that taste sweeter, have a higher Vitamin C content and a longer shelf life than traditionally grown fruits. The team is building a new state-of-the-art, 21,000 square foot, salt-water greenhouse pilot facility in King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Research & Technology Park to continue the development of the farming method.

The pressure on the planet from an increasing population is becoming more visible so action is being taken to find ways for humans to reduce their environmental impact. Farming techniques are becoming smarter as technological innovation and AI are applied to make crops more sustainable by reducing water consumption and utilising urban areas to allow for vertical farming. With consumers keen to limit their impact on the environment and learn more about where their food comes from, these new, local farming techniques meet their needs as well as those of the planet.

Helen Fricker – Trends Manager, EMEA

US – Homework: Helping Local Businesses

National Assignment is a project that connects students and professors with small local businesses to offer marketing expertise for free. Professors are encouraged to assign National Assignment as homework, offering students real-world experience with small businesses, and the businesses gain access to valuable growth strategies for free. Anyone can sign up to volunteer their time, skills, and expertise through National Assignment’s website. Small businesses are encouraged to keep signing up for their specific needs through the site as well.

The consequences of COVID-19 have put a spotlight on supporting small, local businesses. Many large brands have funded grants, embraced ongoing partnerships, and more, while many third-party services have made it easier to discover and shop from small businesses. Much of the focus has turned toward actively, sustainably supporting small businesses as an ongoing habit, not only in times of crisis such as this. As consumers seek to support their communities and also purchase unique, artisanal, quality goods, it’s not much of a hard sell to get them to support locally, provided they can reasonably afford the products/services.

Alex Milinazzo – Trends Analyst, US

Mexico – Mega Green

The kids’ toys brand Mega Bloks has launched a new version of its building blocks products made with 90% plant-based plastics and sustainable packaging. Mattel and Mega reinforce their commitment to continue efforts to achieve the goal of manufacturing products and packaging with 100% recycled, recyclable or ecological materials by 2030 in Latin America and around the world.

Plastics have been the ideal raw material for toys for decades as this versatile material has proven to be inexpensive, easy to clean and durable. However, as happens in all industries, environmental degradation issues, exposure to harmful chemicals as well as the waste problem are leading to the toy manufacturing industry having a massive carbon footprint problem. Consumers, more aware of plastic and its negative impact on the environment, are pushing toymakers to explore options for using more sustainable plastics over petroleum-based ingredients, replacing it with sustainable or recycled materials.

Vanessa Rondine – LATAM Senior Trends Analyst

Indonesia – Hail a Ride, Plant a Tree

Indonesian ride-hailing giant Gojek has launched a new feature, GoGreener Carbon Offset that allows users to calculate their carbon footprint from their usage of Gojek transportation services and from manually inputting their other movements. Users can then offset their carbon footprint by planting trees in one of three locations: Jakarta, Central Java or East Kalimantan. Partnering with environmental services app Jejak.in and conservation partner LindungiHutan, Gojek users can choose how many trees they want planted. Payment for the service can be made via GoPay, Gojek’s payment platform. Users will be given access to a monitoring dashboard, where they can view reports on the growth of their trees.

Rising greenhouse emissions are contributing to poor air quality in the cities, and while mobility needs won’t go away, brands in the automotive space must proactively demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and improving the environment. Even if one accepts that tree planting may not necessarily be the best way to deal with carbon emissions, it does have some merit as it is one of the few ways ordinary people can participate in helping to fight increasing deforestation and climate change. Gojek’s initiative will likely be well received not only because it gives consumers information about their carbon footprint, but because it also provides them with tools to care for the environment in a simple way they know is important. The initiative also brings much-needed visibility to environmental organisations, and could generate increased engagement among urban consumers in particular.

Melanie Nambar – Trends Analyst, Southeast Asia