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.

In this edition of Hotspots, we bring you the Mintel Trends team’s top observations on product and service launches that showcase how Mintel’s 2018 North America Consumer Trends are already playing out in the marketplace. From sustainable leather shoes and donut-sized digital assistants to AR apps that encourage play, find out what’s been happening this month across the US and Canada.

Trust funding

In a post-truth world, consumers are putting their dollars where their trust remains intact.

Sustainable Leather Shoes, US

Nike has created a new and sustainable Flyknit shoe model that’s made out of Flyleather, which is comprised of 50% recycled natural leather and water power. Nike is working to reduce waste and protect the environment through various initiatives. Creating the shoe out of this material uses 90% less water and has an 80% lower carbon footprint than traditional leather manufacturing.

“Nike is an example of a company that is working to develop solutions to climate change. It’s working to inspire and implement business practices that help protect the environment and conserve the planet. This brand positioning is capturing the attention of many consumers, especially those who are paying attention to what brands are doing to address the environmental crisis. In fact, 23% of US consumers say they avoid stores/companies with a poor environmental track record, according to Mintel research. Brands that take on climate change and show their commitment to addressing the environmental crisis will likely increase their visibility and boost their credibility on a global scale.”


Carli Gernot – Manager of Trends, North America

The Value Equation

Budget-minded consumers are weighing a variety of value factors for each purchase decision, and brands are making these individuals a priority.

Swooping Low Cost, Canada

WestJet Airlines has launched a new low-cost carrier called Swoop to help travelers fly for low prices. Based out of Calgary, Canada, Swoop is set to launch in June 2018 and aims to offer travelers a more affordable option. The fares will be, on average, 50% lower than the fares for mainline airline carriers. Tickets to travel via Swoop will go on sale in February 2018.

“In North America, many brands across all sectors are working to cater to budget-minded consumers. From launching low-cost lines to private-label brands, they’re strategizing how they can widen their reach and target this market. We’ve seen United offer cheaper airfares for budget-conscious travelers and Amazon unveil a new low-cost version of Prime for customers on government assistance programs. Companies that have cultivated a strong brand following are more likely to have success in launching new lines and products because they can use their visibility and brand value to attract consumers.”


Carli Gernot – Manager of Trends, North America

The Size of a Donut, US/Canada

Google is promoting the launch of its Google Home Mini—which is the size of a donut—by partnering with bakeries in select cities to host a series of pop-up donut shops across the US and Canada beginning in October 2017. The Mini is a digital voice assistant that can complete tasks such as play music and order products using artificial intelligence. Customers who visit the pop-up donut shops will be able to interact with the Google Home Mini. They’ll also receive a surprise box that will either contain a donut or a Mini.

“The physical still matters for many consumers, whether it’s in-store experiences, pop-up commerce, or intriguing and informative packaging. Pop-up shops, in particular, are capturing consumers’ attention and allowing consumers to literally see the value they will get from a brand before committing to purchase. Pop-ups are cultivating excitement surrounding these unique and fun time-limited experiences. Google’s pop-up donut shop idea will likely excite both Google customers and donut enthusiasts as they have an opportunity to experience a unique in-store activation that will only be available for two days at a time.”


Carli Gernot – Manager of Trends, North America

Health Yourself

In an uncertain and seemingly unstable world, self-care and preventative health are becoming essential for consumers across demographics.

Coping with Trauma, US

Sesame Street is launching a series to provide children with tools and resources that will help them navigate through emotional challenges when facing a traumatic experience. The children’s educational brand is offering parents and children free online resources including videos, story books, games and activities in English and Spanish to help alleviate children’s stress and anxiety. The goal is to support children and make them feel safe. Children’s organizations such as schools and hospitals can also use Sesame Street’s materials. Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City’s Crittenton Children’s Center has been using the resources on a pilot basis for children in foster care and others who have experienced adversity.

“Mental health and wellness is receiving a lot of attention in the US. Consumers are increasingly paying attention to their mental health and emotional well-being, and adopting practices such as meditation and working to get more sleep. Children certainly are in need of similar tools and resources, especially those who have faced adversity, from hurricanes to violence at home. Brands that work to create a safe and healthy dialog surrounding mental health will likely impact how society addresses and discusses these issues today.”

sesame street

Stacy Bingle – Consumer Trends Consultant

Life in Sync: Voices & Visuals

As the line between online and offline blurs, smart systems are delivering seamless convenience—with voice control and image recognition at the helm.

Coffee Trivia, US

In honor of National Coffee Day, Dunkin’ Donuts partnered with Amazon to launch a new trivia skill for Alexa, which gave fans in the US an opportunity to test their coffee knowledge and increase their donut IQ. The new skill is available on Alexa-enabled devices and can be activated by voice command.

“Dunkin’ Donuts’ coffee IQ trivia feature is a unique way to interact with customers. It’s a concept that can potentially cultivate a positive brand association. It’s also a relevant feature seeing as many consumers are increasingly using digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and are enjoying voice command technology. Brands that can launch fun games and activities by using innovation and technology are likely to capture people’s attention, boost word-of-mouth marketing, and increase their visibility.”


Stacy Bingle – Consumer Trends Consultant

Playful Toy Shopping, US

Toys R Us is testing a new augmented reality app that aims to bring its stores to life. The new app is called Play Chaser and can be used while kids and parents navigate Toys R Us stores. Throughout each store, children and parents can unlock fun and interactive experiences such as a virtual basketball game where kids can play solo or alongside friends in-store and a baby nursery where they can select a unique, digital You & Me doll, take it home and care for it. Currently, the in-store experience is available in 23 stores in the US. The toy brand has announced that it will launch nationwide by the end of October 2017.

“Brands are using alternative reality technology to boost engagement and capture consumers’ attention. We’ve seen Samsung let shoppers explore art, fashion, technology, and sport in a variety of ways including VR applications in a retail and demo space in New York City and Modsy use virtual reality to show customers exactly what their rooms would look like with the company’s suggested furniture, art, and accessories in 3D. Brands that adopt these concepts are giving their customers more reason to visit their stores. In-person shopping has become less about purchasing a specific product and more about engaging with brands on a deeper level. Consumers can easily buy products online, so if they’re choosing to visit a store, it is likely that they’re expecting to have a memorable and engaging experience.”


Stacy Bingle – Consumer Trends Consultant

Mintel’s North America Consumer Trends 2018 are available to download here.