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Published: 8 Dec 2017

Hotel for Activists

Hotel for activists

New hotel brand Eaton Hotels is opening its first 'hotel for activists' in Washington DC in 2018, aimed at politically minded, progressive travellers.

Inspired by the surge in activism across the globe, including the 2017 Women's March, the hotel will host workshops and talks on topics ranging from climate change to race relations. It will also house several activist-artists in residence who work in the non-profit and creative fields and tackle timely, political issues in their work (see also Tomorrow's Wandering Workers).

The establishment will boast visual art studios and a 50-seater cinema, which will screen films centred on social issues and human rights. All four of the new hotels (Hong Kong, Seattle and San Francisco will follow the Washington opening) will also run their own radio stations to broadcast similarly themed shows and podcasts.

The hotel is designed to facilitate social interactions, with public spaces inspired by town halls (free to the public), and co-working space reserved for guests.

The Washington hotel will also have a floor dedicated to new-age health, including a yoga studio, meditation and alternative treatment rooms to tackle the burnout often faced by hardworking professionals, according to founder Ka Shui Lo. See Wandering Wellness for more on-the-go wellbeing initiatives.

See also Hospitality Promotes Political Activism and Hospitality with Heart for more on diversity and hospitality.

Published: 6 Dec 2017

Letterbox-Friendly Whisky Pouches

Whisky Me

London-based start-up Whisky Me has launched a new subscription service that offers whisky fans 'rare and exclusive' single malts, delivered in letterbox-friendly 5cl pouches.

For £7 ($9) per month, subscribers receive a new dram in the post every 30 days, including whiskies such as The Macallan, Royal Lochnagar and Aberfeldy. They also receive easy-to-follow tasting notes, background information about the whisky, and drone footage (accessible via social media) of the specific distillery where it was produced. As part of the subscription, members will also have access to one-off whiskies and rare malt varieties.

British founders Thomas Aske and Tristan Stephenson – owners of London's Black Rock whisky bar – said they were inspired to create the brand as a way to "reinvent the serious image of Scotch whisky with a fun and fuss-free approach".

Hot on the heels of Garcon Wines' letterbox wine packaging, Whisky Me plays into the trend for innovative alcohol packaging aimed at busy millennial consumers looking for high-quality products with a convenient edge to suit their time-poor lifestyles. See Alcohol Packaging Trends 2016 for more on how the alcohol industry is providing clever solutions to this emerging need.

See also Alcohol Trends 2017 and Alcohol's Healthy Future for more on the evolving alcohol industry, as well as Marketing Alcohol to Moderate Millennials.

For a deep dive into the latest in innovative packaging design, see Packaging Futures 2017/18.

Published: 4 Dec 2017

Sous Vide Meal Delivery


San Francisco start-up FirstChop is launching a new meat-based meal-kit delivery concept for enthusiastic foodies that draws on the sous vide cooking technique.

As of this month, customers can buy a starter kit that contains a sous vide wand (a device that heats and circulates water) and ten frozen and vacuum-packed portions of meat.Choices include braised short rib (pre-cooked for 16 hours), black garlic pork loin, petit beef medallions and Peruvian grilled chicken.

To prepare the meat, home cooks simply need to place it in hot water along with the wand for the specified time.

The starter kit costs $139, while a family box of 24 servings costs $129 and a box of 14 portions can be ordered on a month-by-month basis for $79.

This is the latest in a series of new meal kits based around a specific device, with US start-up Tovala's cloud-connected countertop oven and meal-delivery kits offering another recent example of this thinking.

For more exciting kitchen-tech developments and meal delivery options for enthusiastic at-home chefs, see Activating At-Home Foodies – part of our Kitchen of The Future Industry Trend.

See also Meal Kits for New Mums, Hershey Taps US Meal Kit Growth and Natal Nutrition for more examples of brands tapping into niche consumer demographics to consolidate their place in a crowded meal kit market.

Published: 1 Dec 2017

Dubai Airport’s Aquarium-Themed Security

Dubai International Airport

Dubai International Airport is swapping its traditional security desks for a 'virtual aquarium' fitted with facial recognition cameras.

As passengers pass through the tunnel and look at the virtual fish, their faces and irises will be scanned by 80 surrounding cameras. When they reach the end, they will either be cleared by a sign that reads 'Have a nice trip', or stopped by a red sign that says 'Wait' – in which case security will be alerted.

According to Major Gen Obaid Al Hameeri, deputy director general of Dubai residency and foreign affairs, this new check-in system will not only add an element of entertainment for passengers, but will also increase the quality of the image taken by capturing the whole face from different angles.

Created in partnership with Dubai-based airline Emirates, the first of the new virtual walkways will open in Terminal 3 by the end of summer 2018. It will be rolled out across the rest of the airport by 2020 to process the 124 million passengers expected to pass through that year.

This is an inventive example of how airports are investing in cutting-edge tech and furnishing terminals with references to nature, as recently discussed in New-Wave Airports.

See also Agile Airlines Reshape Travel for a comprehensive update on innovation across the airline space, as well as The Empowered Customer Journey for more seamless and personalised travel experiences.

Published: 29 Nov 2017

Editor’s Highlights: Food Matters 2017

This year’s Food Matters conference in London (November 21-23) once again unpicked the industry’s most pertinent pain points and offered creative solutions.

  • Label Wars: Bryonie Hollaert, company nutritionist at UK supermarket chain Morrison’s, explored current tensions in food and drink labelling. “Consumers want everything ‘on a stick’,” she said. “They want it to be detox, gluten-free, anti-inflammatory etc. but unfortunately, regulation lets us say very little on-pack. Even ‘vegan’ isn’t really properly defined as a label.”

    She questioned the focus placed on the labelling of sugar, especially in light of the UK government’s recent suggestion to quantify it in ‘teaspoons’ on future packaging – something she feels will be “demonising and unhelpful”. Hollaert believes labelling fibre would be more productive: “Fibre is something so good and something we desperately need more of.”
Sugar still sparks hot debate in the food realm
  • Road to Reformulation: Speakers addressed the need to reformulate products with high levels of sugar, fat and sodium. Peter Harding, chief operating officer at Japanese-owned beverage company Lucozade Suntory, feels that Lucozade has succeeded here. “We’ve converted over 13 million consumers to a lower-sugar format,” he said. “We now steward a business that we believe is doing the right thing and can lead industry.”

    However, Jane Lawrie, group communications director at UK supermarket chain Tesco, emphasised that taste still needs to reign supreme. “Our customers say that the healthier product doesn’t necessarily taste as good as the regular product. Taste really is the number one issue, so reformulation needs to be attractive and appealing.”

    Joanna Allen, global brand vice-president at condiment giant Hellmann’s (owned by Unilever), agreed: “Taste is the reason we exist at Unilever.” She detailed a recent product tweak which involved substituting sugar for honey in one of its mayonnaise products.
Hellmann's honey-sweetened ketchup
  • Retraining the Palate: Speakers felt that for long-lasting dietary changes to manifest, brands need to start ‘retraining’ consumers’ palates. “We can retrain people to accept a lower level of saltiness in foods,” asserted Sue Gatenby, senior director of nutrition science at PepsiCo.

    However, Lawrie cautioned a slow but steady approach. “At one time, our product developers decided to cut all salt from our chilled soup products, and when it came to taste testing, the products absolutely bombed. It needed to be done step by step.”

    Harding also feels that taste preferences can be modified. “Over time, we need to re-educate palates. New soft drinks coming to market have much lower sweetness profiles, and this is a good thing. Our cactus water product is a good example of this. Look at Japan, where the preferred sweetness profile is much lower to the West.”

    Allen also stressed the importance of catering to eco- and health-conscious consumers who prefer to consume less meat. “When we promote recipes, we make sure we are putting more plant-based dishes out there.”

    However, Lawrie also felt that price is ultimately the key decision maker. She believes consumers can be led in the right direction by making healthier versions equal in price to the original ones, or available at reduced cost. “In May this year, [Hellmann’s] ran a health month where we made the lower-sugar and lower-salt varieties cheaper and more accessible,” she explained.
  • Give Preservatives a Break: In recent years, preservatives and additives have been given a bad name by brands and consumers alike (often for very good reason). However, panellists implored audience members to reconsider some of these ingredients.

    “There are product quality implications when not including particular preservatives, and this is the case with one of our Hellman’s products in particular – so it must stay,” said Allen. “Also, preservatives can reduce food waste, so let’s make sure there are no unintended consequences when removing them.” PepsiCo’s Gatenby agreed: “Some additives are essential for food safety.”

    For more on developments in sugar alternatives, see The New Sugar. Meanwhile, Culinary Provocateurs deals with heightened consumer consciousness around ingredients and product formulations.
Speakers asserted that consumer taste preferences can evolve
Published: 27 Nov 2017

Italian Restaurant Launches Pasta for Breakfast

Chez Frederic

Canberra-based Italian restaurant Chez Frederic has created a new breakfast menu featuring a range of pasta-based dishes.

Launched in October 2017, the morning meals put a twist on breakfast classics. Options include bacon and egg ravioli with hollandaise sauce (a homage to eggs benedict), and pappardelle with crispy bacon, mozzarella and smashed eggs (evoking a bacon and egg roll).

For customers with a sweet tooth, maple and ricotta ravioli with home-made ice cream and berry compote serves as a tantalising alternative to pancakes.

The breakfast/brunch menu is available from 11.30am until 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays, with prices ranging from $5.90AUS to $19AUS.

This new slant on the morning occasion is a further example of how it's evolving in culinary scope to incorporate unexpected, non-traditional dishes, as discussed in-depth in Breakfast/Brunch: The All-Day Opportunity.

For more on how lines between breakfast and evening occasions are being blurred, see Nightlife Eats: Dining After Dark. Meanwhile, Post-Kitchen Lifestyles, part of our Kitchen of the Future Industry Trend, explores the evolution of mobile and 'snackified' breakfasts.

Published: 24 Nov 2017

Qantas Renews Passengers’ Passports


Australia's largest airline Qantas is offering to pay for a new passport for any US nationals flying to Australia from the States. The initiative will take the form of a $135 discount on the flight, which covers the $110 cost of applying for a new passport in the US and the $25 execution fee.

The campaign was based on research that found over half of US residents do not own a valid passport (US Department of State, 2017), as well as a 2016 survey by New York travel research company Travel Leaders Group that revealed Australia is the number one dream destination for US travellers.

In a further bid to attract more long-haul passengers, Qantas has also recently announced it will be offering its first non-stop daily flights from London Heathrow to Perth from March 24 2018. The 17-hour flight is being launched to largely cater for the 184,000 British-born citizens living in Perth and will cost around £1,000 ($1,316) for a return flight.

For our latest reports covering innovations in the airline and travel space, read Agile Airlines Reshape Travel and New-Wave Airports. Meanwhile, The Empowered Customer Journey, part of our Future Guest Industry Trend, explores customisable travel bookings and increased passenger autonomy.

Published: 21 Nov 2017

WeGrow: WeWork’s Plans to Disrupt Education


Global co-working company WeWork has announced plans to open a private elementary school called WeGrow in its New York headquarters in September 2018.

Focusing on educating children about entrepreneurship, the school will embrace hands-on teaching for practical experience. For example, kids will spend a day each week on a farm to learn how to grow vegetables, and will then have to come up with a plan for selling them.

"In my book, there's no reason why children in elementary schools can't be launching their own businesses," co-founder Rebekah Neuman told Bloomberg. "Kids should develop their passions and act on them early, instead of waiting to be 'disruptive' later in life."

The curriculum is still in development and will incorporate mindfulness, meditation and farm-to-table cooking. Technology will be important too, but won't replace interactions with teachers.

The school plans to leverage the expertise of professionals in the WeWork network, employing them as mentors to cultivate children's passions. It will also serve the community by accommodating kids in the same premises during the working day.

Another key selling point is that when parents travel, their kids can join them and tap into the WeGrow schooling network once it's established worldwide. The move into education marks further expansion of the WeWork empire, with WeGrow joining the company's housing venture WeLive and gym/spa concept Rise by We.

For more on the disruptive educational models preparing young people for the changing demands of the future workplace, see Career Pioneers.

Published: 15 Nov 2017

Beer for Menopausal Women

Portsmouth Brewery

New Hampshire-based craft brewer Portsmouth Brewery has launched a new beer that claims to reduce the symptoms of menopause.

The beer, named Libeeration, is a gruit-style ale that contains ingredients known to calm menopausal symptoms, including motherwort and mugwort (to reduce hot flushes and night sweats), lemon balm (for better sleep), chamomile (to help with anxiety) and damiana (for balancing hormone levels). It also includes saphir hops, which offer a hint of tangerine flavour and are said to help promote restful sleep.

The beer was created in consultation with women's health practitioners and herbalists, spending six years in development.

For a broader look at the incorporation of alcohol into healthier and more conscientious lifestyles, see Alcohol's Healthy Future and Alcohol Trends 2017. See also Alcohol's New Female Focus for more on how the industry is including women in order to broaden its traditionally male-focused marketing reach.

For other brands looking to ease symptoms of the menopause, see Grace: Relieving Menopausal Hot Flushes and Mature Beauty. For other female-centric product positioning, see Natal Nutrition.

Published: 14 Nov 2017

Oak Packaging Ages Alcohol in the Bottle


Designed for distilled alcoholic spirits such as rum and whiskey, Brum is a packaging concept that incorporates oak timber into the bottle, allowing the maturation process to continue at home. 

Brum was conceived by Bram van Oostenbruggen, a Dutch designer and recent graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven. Inspired by his experience of distilling spirits as a hobby, van Oostenbruggen sought to invent an alternative for storing and ageing alcohol that encourages the drinker to form a deeper appreciation of the maturation process. 

Brum’s design features a cut-glass bottle that’s attached to a panel of oak timber and secured with a silicone seal to prevent leakages. The inclusion of oak timber in the packaging allows the spirit to continue maturing after it has been transferred into its individual bottle, just as it would in an oak barrel.

The use of Brum packaging also speeds up the ageing process. With smaller batches, the alcohol comes into closer and more consistent contact with the oak timber. In just a few months, the spirit contained within is able to reach a level of maturation usually achieved after several years.

Alcohol stored in Brum packaging continues to mellow even after the bottle has been opened and while it is consumed. As a result, the drinker is able to experience the influence of the oak on the spirit’s colour, flavour and aroma – a process usually concealed within the distiller’s cellar. 

Read Packaging Futures and Luxury Packaging Trends: Luxe Pack Monaco 2017 for more brands using inventive packaging to enhance product.

Published: 13 Nov 2017

Marriott Introduces Slack Hotel Bookings


Members of global hotel chain Marriott's Reward loyalty scheme can now book group travel through California-based business messaging app Slack.

To book, members open up Marriott's extension page in the Slack app and type in the city and dates of travel, with the app then providing a few different hotel options to choose from. Should this be a group trip, everyone involved in the chat can vote using the 'thumbs up' emoji. Accommodation can be booked immediately through the Slack app at the best possible rate, according to Marriott.

This is a further example of Marriott's savvy adoption of booking technologies. Earlier in 2017, its Aloft hotel brand introduced a text-based chatbot called ChatBotlr that allowed guests to request basic hotel services such as wake-up calls and laundry fulfilments. It also launched hotel-booking bots for Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Google Assistant, as well as an original Snapchat video series earlier this year that informs guests about updates across the travel industry.

These flexible booking innovations reflect a wider trend for increased autonomy and malleability when it comes to travel and hospitality experiences – as discussed in great depth in our report The Empowered Customer Journey, part of our Industry Trend The Future Guest.

See also Expedia's VR Booking Technology and Expedia Partners with Amazon Alexa for other recent examples of tech-enabled booking innovations.

Published: 10 Nov 2017

Blockchain Influences Coffee Supply


Denver-based tech start-up Bext360 has devised a way to improve transparency and quality in the coffee supply chain through a combination of robotics, mobile apps and blockchain technologies.

Its newly developed process uses large, sensor-laden machines to sort, weigh and grade the quality of coffee cherries and feed this information to buyers before they bid on the beans – allowing them to make a more informed choice.

This system is also fairer to farmers, who can earn more for their goods via a framework based on quality rather than quantity.

The data, including provenance, purchasing name and value, is collected and recorded in one place on a blockchain in the Bext360 system, cutting down on paper and making it simple to audit.

The company has developed this system to be used across other commodity supply chains in the future.

We have tracked the increasing importance of complete transparency in the food supply chain in both Culinary Provocateurs and Culinary Consciousness, and continue to watch this space for further developments.

For more on the influence of blockchain across other industries, see Retail's Blockchain Opportunities and Blockchain-Powered Smartphone.

Published: 8 Nov 2017

Culinary Toolkit for Kids

Nico Eats

London's Royal College of Art graduate Florencia Sepulveda has designed a set of tools and an accompanying cookbook to encourage children to experiment with new ingredients and flavours.

The toolkit includes a flask-style shaker for easy mixing, a masher to prepare soft foods and a 'twister' for shredding leaves, garlic and herbs.

Alongside these practical utensils, the kit includes a lab-like collection of devices that help youngsters explore flavour using a range of senses. These include a funnel that can be used to hide edibles to enable a game of guessing by scent, a food kaleidoscope for playing with colour, and a stethoscope for listening to the sounds of chewing and digestion.

Sepulveda pursued this experimental concept to assist children in forming deeper connections with food from a young age and thereby developing heathier attitudes towards their diet.

This project forms part of a wider movement towards engaging children with nutrition, as also seen in Kitchenware for Kids and Tech-Inspired Children's Dining.

Meanwhile, New Food Roles and Rituals – part of our Kitchen of the Future Industry Trend – looks at the modern family's changing mindsets and behaviours in the kitchen.

Published: 6 Nov 2017

Coffee-Beer Hybrid


East London craft brewer Meantime Brewing has collaborated with London coffee shop Nude Coffee Roasters to create a line of hybrid latte-beers.

Dubbed 'beerista' beers, the brewery has conjured two new limited-edition varieties: a 9%ABV coffee porter made with El Salvadorian coffee beans, and a cream ale made with oats and lactose. The beers are designed to be mixed together in the same way that one would do with coffee and milk. Customers can tweak the ratios to create a beverage that resembles different coffee types – such as an Americano or a flat white.

Available from Nude's Expresso Roastery in Shoreditch and the Meantime Brewery Tasting Rooms in Greenwich during the last week of October, the beers were available on draught and as 30cl bottles to take away.

This collaboration is a further example of inventive product fusion in the drinks space – a trend we saw in abundance at this year's Anuga trade show in Cologne. See also New Coffee Hybrids and Product Fusion: Wine-Infused Coffee.

For a broader understanding of the current alcohol landscape, read Alcohol Trends 2017: Imbibe Live and Alcohol's Healthy Future. For a future focus on coffee, see Reinventing Coffee.

Published: 3 Nov 2017

Airbnb Develops Home-Sharing Apartment Complex


Global home-sharing network Airbnb has partnered with Miami-based Newgard Development Group to develop a complex of branded apartments in Kissimmee, Florida, designed especially for short-term rentals.

A first for the hospitality platform, Niido Powered by Airbnb will consist of 324 apartments. Tenants will be able to 'home-share' their entire property for up to 180 days per year, and can accommodate guests in parts of their property (known as a 'hosted stay') through Airbnb all year round.

In addition, each property will be assigned a MasterHost, who will be accessible via an app for meet and greet, check-in and cleaning. Apartments will also feature keyless doors and secure storage for the tenants' belongings.

In return, tenants participating in the scheme must share any proceeds they make from the rental with the private landlord that owns their unit.  

The idea behind the project is to create a community of home-sharers that can rent out their properties without disturbing other, non-home-sharing tenants in the building, since everyone who resides in the building is part of the scheme.

For more on how the gig economy is evolving in the hospitality space, see The Evolved Sharing Economy and for other brands partnering with home-share brands, read Hyatt Partners with OneFineStay, John Lewis Embraces Airbnb and Home Rental Welcome Pack.

See also Tomorrow's Wandering Workers for further developments in the nomadic working and living realms.