Weekly dose of microtrends that will shape our future

NWO.AI’s weekly pulse: nationwide driver shortage, the future of packaging, why uranium is exploding, and more...

Sarah Gupta

Dear reader,

Welcome back to another weekly newsletter! My name is Sarah Gupta, and I’m a Trends Analyst at NWO.AI. I'm here to keep you updated on some of the most interesting and cutting-edge topics. I’m excited to be bringing you some interesting signals to help you gear up for the fall.

1. Drivers wanted NOW

NWO.AI Signal: Bus Driver Shortage, Truck Driver Shortage

Overall, the pandemic has enormously impacted hiring in various industries: in the past month, 66% of employers report difficulty finding workers, due to coronavirus cases and the so-called Great Resignation. Moreover, factors including obesity and age in certain populations, like bus drivers, would make them particularly at risk for severe COVID-19.

A nationwide driver shortage leading to shipping delays has prompted companies to offer large bonuses to truck drivers and continues to fuel the conversation on automated trucks. Our data show an Inflection Point in mid-April 2021 for “truck driver shortage,” which coincides with the spring 2021 peak of COVID-19 cases (7-day average). At this time, many schools were not fully in-person, though school districts now strive for a sense of normalcy with the new academic year. For that reason, we do not see an increased Impact Score for “bus driver shortage” until August, when the discussion around the topic increased, and certain parts of the country struggled to bring students into the classroom. We see an Inflection Point for both signals in mid-August, as the summer toll of the Delta variant became more apparent, compounded by opposition to masks and vaccinations.

2. Prioritizing mental health for kids

NWO.AI Signal: Kids Mental Health

Speaking of going back to school, as kids return to the classroom, discussion around their mental health continues to increase, with an overall change in Impact Score of +353%. This past year has put more focus on everyone’s state of mind, elevating previous advocacy. In May, during Mental Health Awareness Month, we saw an Inflection Point for the topic, where the Impact Score for “kids mental health” increased from 56 to 82 by the end of the month. We identify another set of Inflection Points at the beginning of August, where the Impact Score increases to a maximum Impact Score of 100 over only a month. It’s no surprise that we see this trend as the new school year starts, and parents and educators help kids adjust to post-pandemic life. More states are passing legislation allowing students to take mental health days, the most recent being Illinois in August.

3. The sustainable packaging movement

NWO.AI Signal: Blueland, Sustainable Packaging

An increasing number of consumers are becoming concerned about mitigating their ecological footprints. Blueland, a company that offers cleaning products in tablet form, hopes to reduce plastic waste by shifting the paradigm of how we traditionally buy products like soap. This is part of a larger ongoing trend of sustainable packaging (+418%), where more brands opt to use recyclable materials or cut out the materials entirely, as with shampoo bars instead of bottles. Given the extreme weather this past summer, more consumers are discussing climate change, and we’ve seen a corresponding Inflection Point and subsequent growth in Impact Score starting in July.

4. Celebrities, they’re just like us

NWO.AI Signal: Celebrity Meal

Various restaurant brands have seen great success with celebrity meal collaborations, from Sweetgreen and tennis star Naomi Osaka to McDonald’s and K-pop band BTS. We note a jump in Impact Score of over 30 points during May and June this year during these campaigns. This creative marketing tactic has taken off, with an increased Impact Score of +392% over the past few years and a predicted forecast that remains strong. In the wake of last year’s racial justice movements and renewed DEI initiatives, this is perhaps an effort by corporate brands to connect with a more diverse audience. Most recently, we saw another Inflection Point in August with the release of rapper Saweetie’s McDonald’s meal and limited-edition merchandise, resulting in a peak Impact Score of 100 at the beginning of September.

5. Weekly supply chain round-up

NWO.AI Signal: Bauxite, Aluminium

We’ve recently reported on supply chain shocks, which we predict to continue as part of a long and tumultuous year. Our system flagged an Inflection Point for “bauxite” the first week of September, the same time as the military coup in Guinea. The Impact Score jumped from 46 to a peak Impact Score of 100 in a matter of days, as Guinea supplies a quarter of the world’s bauxite, which is essential to producing aluminum.

NWO.AI Signal: Uranium, Natural Gas

Uranium's price has shot up to the highest it’s been in nine years, alongside a rise in natural gas prices. This past year, we saw a sharp uptick in Impact Scores for natural gas and uranium in February, during winter storms across the United States. We predict similar engagement when power needs increase again next winter. After increased demand for these commodities, as well as climate change discussions in the Infrastructure Bill, we saw Inflection Points at the end of August and a rise in Impact Scores. We will likely see a sustained Impact Score for these topics with the upcoming climate summit in Glasgow, in addition to other geopolitical considerations like the Nord Stream Pipeline and uranium stockpiling.

About NWO.AI
NWO.AI's predictive platform enables leading Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to anticipate and track global cultural shifts by aggregating, analyzing, and producing actionable reports on human-generated data. We are leveraging petabytes of external, noisy, and unstructured data from various sources - including search, social media, blogs, news, patent databases, SEC filings and we are continuously adding more sources. Our mission is to answer the what, when, and most importantly 'why' behind a consumer trend and enable our customers to detect these shifts as early as possible.

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