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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 cookware brand offering a text hotline for real-time cooking advice to a design firm introducing a new hybrid working model that allows workers to choose which days they work, check out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

Text the cookware brand – US

Great Jones cookware launched a text hotline to offer real-time cooking advice. The service, known as Potline, is a free, direct SMS line to the Great Jones team. The text hotline will answer any type of question related to cooking and meal prep. Individuals can even text ingredients they have on hand, and a representative from Great Jones will reply with recipe suggestions. The service is open on weekdays from midday-6pm EST.

The pandemic generated a surge in cooking and baking, and it put cookware brands in a unique position to differentiate their value offerings. Great Jones, similar to other DTC brands, generates value around aesthetic appeal with a wide variety of colors and designs. Now the company is bringing a focus to not just having beautiful kitchen equipment, but also putting it to use. In many ways this hotline is serving as a justification for the premium prices of its products, by signaling it’s not only offering beautiful cookware, it has the cooking expertise to offer as well.

Diana Kelter – Associate Director of Consumer Trends, North America

Flexible working week – Australia, UK

An employee-owned global engineering and design firm is introducing a new hybrid working model so its workers can choose to work any day of the week. Arup’s Work Unbound model allows its 15,500 employees, 6,000 of whom are in the UK, to work flexibly across the seven-day week. This means staff, known as members, can work their contracted hours over the weekend if they wish or stick to the traditional Monday-Friday working week. Working from home is also now a permanent option so UK employees can choose where they work from three days a week while the other two are spent in the Arup offices. The introduction of Work Unbound was launched after a successful trial in the company’s Liverpool, England, and Queensland, Australia offices.

The pandemic saw flexible working being forced upon many businesses but it has added to a pre-existing desire from consumers to have more freedom as to when and where they work. Remote tools and technology have further enabled companies to offer their workforces this flexibility and the traditional working week is continuing to be questioned. We are seeing companies look at shorter working weeks as some studies have found these to produce the same, if not better, outcomes than a five-day week. Additionally, as consumers have had time to reassess their life priorities, seek ways to de-stress and manage their wellbeing, having more flexibility over their work-life can support this.

Helen Fricker – Trends Manager, EMEA

Astral Chocolate – Brazil

In a partnership with the Brazilian astrology website, Astrolink, Nestlé has launched Choco Astro, a communication platform that offers chocolate bars with discounts according to your birth chart. It offers a year of free chocolate for the five most negatively impacted astral birth charts, and also discounts on chocolates according to the monthly forecast for each sign.

The pandemic brought many parts of life to a screeching halt last year, boosting the desire for support, connection and self-knowledge. At a time when people feel disconnected from everyone and everything, astrology and other spiritual practices have a way of generating a feeling of connection with something outside of the self. Over this period, a new group of young and diverse astrologers emerged on social media. Brands are launching innovations linked to the zodiac, not only to provide entertainment but to address the target’s personality and create a meaningful connection with them.

Dana Macke – Director of Trends, Americas

Mobility Marketing in the Metaverse – South Korea

Hyundai Motor Company has launched a metaverse space on Roblox to promote its products and future mobility solutions. Dubbed Hyundai Mobility Adventure, the virtual game allows users to interact with one another and experience Hyundai Motor’s mobility offerings in the form of avatars. On Roblox, users can freely navigate between the five virtual zones in Hyundai’s metaverse. They can also play games and role-play to complete various tasks. Players will be able to operate purpose-built vehicles (PBV) and urban air mobility (UAM) transportation devices, as well as drive Hyundai Motor vehicles such as the NEXO and IONIQ 5. This is the first time a global carmaker has created content on the online gaming and game creation platform.

As a result of reduced real-world interactions, consumers have turned to the metaverse to socialise, and platforms like Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft have seen a surge in users throughout the pandemic. This has in turn encouraged brands to consider how they may make their presence felt in the metaverse. In South Korea, significant investment is being poured into the development of a metaverse ecosystem, and brands’ increasing participation in this space demonstrates how seriously marketers are taking the metaverse. By creating a campaign on Roblox’s platform, Hyundai is able to showcase its mobility solutions to a younger demographic, which seems apt given that the demographic in question is poised to become new car buyers.

Victoria Li – Trends Analyst, APAC